Hereford vendors pocketed an extra $100 a head for their steers above other British breeds in a record breaking 77th annual Mountain Calf Sales this week.
Held at Benambra, Ensay and Omeo on March 14-15, the mountain calf sales yarded a total of 7995 cattle to average $1123 – a jump of $158 on last year’s average.
New record top whiteface steer prices were set at each of the yards, peaking at Omeo at $1710.
With vendors quoting a lift in their individual averages by $200-$300, new genetics, fertiliser and capital infrastructure ranked highly on their shopping lists.
Going into the sales, dry seasonal conditions and a softening cattle market had created nerves for vendors.
But, a shortage of cattle combined with the low Australian dollar and a strong prime market resulted in a windfall for the Victorian high country producers at the two-day event.
The majority of cattle sold to Gippsland, Victoria’s western districts and north-east, King Island, South Australia and the Riverina.
Repeat steer finishers did not hold back when it came to bidding on the heavy end.
Typical of those was Benambra’s Paul Pendergast, who had just sold the calves he bought at Benambra last year for $1290 over the hooks to $2500.
He was quick to reinvest, buying the opening pens at the Benambra sales for $1570 and $1550 to grass finish over winter.
Producers offered 600 less calves this year across the sales circuit with more heifers retained, a shift to spring calving and earlier turn offs into buoyant regional sales.
The whiteface offering hit its peak when 1288 Hereford and Hereford cross steers and heifers were sold at Ensay on March 15 for an overall average of $1211.
The sale averaged a massive $1265 for steers and $1023 for heifers.
This outpaced the steer average at the Omeo Angus sale on March 14 by $99 and the overall sale average by a stellar $124.
The overall average for the Elders Benambra Weaner Sale lifted by $181 on last year, with steers averaging $1208 (a rise of $266 on last year) and heifers $981 (up by $141).
At Ensay, the steer average lifted by $146 on 2016 and heifers rose by $117.
A total of 1288 mixed sex whiteface cattle were yarded at Ensay to average $1211 – $153 up on 2016.
The final leg at Omeo yarded 1906 head to average $1132.
The average steer price of $1192 was $113 up on last year and heifers averaged $964, or $45 up.
In comparison, Omeo’s Angus sale yarded 3478 cattle for an overall average of $1087, a $1166 steer average and $990 for the heifers.
So, how were the whiteface calves tracking on a cents per kilogram basis?
Unfortunately, just one vendor regularly displays indicative green weights on his steers each year.
Jim Pendergast, Penderscourt, Hinnomunjie, listed a green weight for this top pen of January-February drop steers at 464kg at the Benambra Calf Sale.
They sold for $1570 to give an estimated curfewed price of 356c/kg. His seconds weighed 419kg and sold for $1510 to return a curfewed price of 379c/kg while the thirds had a curfewed weight of 319kg to make 363c/kg.
Barry Newcomen, Ensay, weighed a sample of the tops of the draft at the Ensay Weaner Sale to average 415kg. The pen sold for $1590 to return 383c/kg.
The majority of calves had been weaned early this year due to dry seasonal conditions and either supplemented or run on river flats.
Many carried European Union accreditation.
Although buyers remarked on the lack of bloom, vendors generally agreed liveweights were around 10kg heavier this year.
And, they were rewarded with backgrounders, lot feeders, steer finishers, processors and restockers paying 400c/kg and above for the middle runs.
Whiteface cattle tracked above other British breeds by an overall
average of $124 during the 77th Annual Mountain Calf Sales.