As store sales continue to fire around the nation for whiteface cattle, expectations are high for the Hereford feature lines at the 77th annual Mountain Calf Sales this month.
Strong buying support traditionally comes from backgrounders, lot feeders, steer finishers and restockers from Victoria, South Australia and NSW.
The sales circuit, on March 14-15, takes in 7920 Hereford and Hereford cross steers and heifers at Benambra, Ensay and Omeo.
Herefords Australia will sponsor the best presented pen at each of the four sales.
The opener is the Sharpe Fullgrabe’s Benambra calf sale at the Hinnomunjie yards from 10am.
Black Baldy mixed sex weaners, some lines being European Union accredited, kick off the Elders offering at Omeo on the Tuesday from 11am.
The pure Hereford and Hereford cross lines will be offered at the Benambra Weaner Sale, at the Benambra saleyards, from 2pm. There are 2000 mixed sex weaners, with selected pens European Union accredited.
The action will then switch to Ensay on March 15 from 11am with 1500 Hereford and Hereford-Shorthon cross mixed sex weaners.
The sales circuit will finish at Omeo from 2pm with 2000 Hereford and Hereford-Shorthorn cross mixed sex weaners.
David Hill, Elders Omeo, said 85 per cent of the offering would be weaned and 40 per cent European Union accredited.
Mr Hill said liveweights would be a fraction lighter due to dry seasonal conditions.
He said the strength of accommodation bookings indicated buyer interest this year.
Mr Hill expects competition from large processors, including Thomas Foods International, on the EU cattle, and potentially a live shipping order.
“We have had pre-sale inquiry from Moree, Tamworth and along the eastern seaboard due to the sheer volume of numbers,’’ he said.
“The market may ease slightly as the freight component comes into play – all access roads to the north and south are open.
“Sales have been pretty good across the eastern seaboard and generally the sales here will be comparable except for the odd pen of heifers, especially if restockers are competing on them.’’
Last year’s 76th annual Mountain Calf Sales broke all records after a price domination by whiteface cattle in the autumn weaner sales.
The whiteface offering hits its peak when 1088 Hereford and Hereford cross steers were offered at Ensay in 2016 for a top steer price of $1420 and heifer top of $1110.
The sale averaged a strong $1118 for steers – up $242 on the 2015 average – and $906 for heifers.
The Benambra weaner sale set a new record for Hereford heifers of $1200.
The final leg at Omeo resulted in 1989 head average $1045, and set a new top price of $1340.
Steers averaged $1079 – up $272 on 2015 – while heifers jumped a huge $320 on 2015 to average $919.
The Ensay Producers Group will hold a dinner on the Tuesday evening at the Ensay Winery for about 100 vendors, buyers and agents, with Simon O’Donnell as guest speaker and actor William McGuiness as MC.
Hereford beef supplied by local producers Phil and Kerry Geehan will be prepared by master chef Mark Bouten
Ensay Producers Group member Barry Newcomen said the majority of calves were weaned by mid January due to dry seasonal conditions.
“Most people have been supplementary feeding but the calves will be in fair order with liveweights comparable to last year,’’ Mr Newcomen said.
He said recent prices at Koonwarra resulted in Hereford weaners returning 421-480c/kg for steers weighing 342-375kg.
“If we can get those prices here, everyone would be pretty happy.
“Our steers had an average green weight of 415kg three weeks out from the sale.’’
Mr Newcomen said steer finishers from Gippsland and King Island were likely to be strong.
“They have had more rain than us and are optimistic – people are often prepared to gamble at the mountain calf sales as they believe the autumn break is around the corner.’’
Bookings for the Ensay dinner can be made to Barry Newcomen on 0427 242 238.