Steer finishers, backgrounders and lot feeders converged on the Victorian high country on Tuesday to bid to $1240 for whiteface cattle at the circuit opener, the Benambra Calf Sale.
Selling agents Sharp Fullgrabe yarded 1500 yearling and weaner Hereford, Hereford cross and Euro steers and heifers for the March 13 sale at the Hinnomunjie yards.
Buyers attended from Myrtleford, Leongatha, Wangaratta, Warragul, Corryong, Albury-Wodonga, Wagga, Coonamble, Dalby and local districts.
Vendors had rounded down their expectations by $200 a head on the back of a softer market following last year’s record sale when the top steers hit $1570.
The overall run of Hereford yearling and weaner steers topped at $1100 and sold down to $850.
The Hereford-Shorthorn cross steers sold for $740-$1240 – down $330 on last year and more in line with the 2016 results.
Black Baldy steers returned $835-$1040.
In the heifer pens, Hereford females sold for $530-$900 and Black Baldies made $640-$810.
Sharp Fullgrabe principal, Graeme Fullgrabe, Bairnsdale, quoted the sale as firm on recent Gippsland markets despite liveweights being down 30-40kg.
“Most of the cattle were weaned and were lacking bloom but still had the stretch and bone about them,’’ Mr Fullgrabe said.
“The sale has drawn great support from Dalby in Queensland, northern NSW, Coonamble and Scone while Riverina and south Gippsland were punting on an autumn break.
“One client sold their top steers for $900, the seconds $870 and the thirds $800.
“In the heifers, other than a few breeding females, they worked out to be firm if not better than recent Bairnsdale markets.
“The better end of the heifers will be good feeding on a 60 day program for the lot feeders.’’
Mr Fullgrabe said bullock finishers could not be blamed for being gun shy on the heavier calves after paying record prices last year.
“Everyone else is buying little calves to tuck away and those smaller cattle are better than money in the bank,’’ he said.
“It was great to see our Queensland clients physically attend the sale.
“There is going to be a lack of uniform fat cattle from April to July – every butcher tells us that, and that will rub off for the lot feeders.’’
Auctioneer Michael O’Callaghan, Bairnsdale, quoted the heavier yearling and weaner steers at 280-290c/kg while the lighter end made 380-400c/kg.
Barry Sharp, Bairnsdale, judged the Herefords Australia best presented pen, awarding it to Brian Dyer, of Benambra.
Mr Sharp said the pen was even with length, squareness over the top, good hindquarter and eye pigment.
The pen of 27, April 2017 drop steers were Sugarloaf Creek and Karoonda blood, and sold to SEJ Leongatha for $1100 – the top price for purebred steers.
Mr Dyer, who offered 135 steers and heifers plus 15 Black Baldies, had anticipated prices being $200 back on last year.
Topping the sale overall was Jim Pendergast, Penderscourt, Hinnomunjie, with his pen of 14 Shorthorn-Hereford cross steers selling for $1240 to repeat buyer Paul Pendergast, Benambra.
The January-February drop steers were weaned in October and were Yavenvale and Rosstulla blood.
Jim listed a green weight for the steers of 459kg to give an estimated curfewed selling price 284c/kg.
His seconds (May-June drop) made $1100 with an estimated curfewed price of 287c/kg and thirds $1170 or 333c/kg.
Jim said his draft of 51 steers was up to 15kg lighter this year due to early weaning.
“After the record prices last year I was able to invest in a new tractor and cattle yards,’’ he said.
“We were all happy enough with the prices two years ago – if we could match those today it would be satisfactory.
“Last year the top pen weighed 441kg and made 356c/kg, the seconds weighed 398kg and worked out at 379c/kg, while the thirds weighed 356kg and made 382c/kg.’’
Benambra steer finisher Paul Pendergast was keen to secure the top two pens from Jim after he recently sold grass finished Penderscourt steers, originally bought at the 2017 sale, to average over $1800 to JBS Australia.
Pendergast and Howe bought the top priced Black Baldy steers for $1040 from D F Olsson.
Brian Dyer topped the heifer pens with Sugarloaf Creek and Karoonda blood weaners, making $900 to David Hill, David Hill Marketing and Livestock, Albury.
Peter Soutter, Benambra, was pleased to top at $1080 for his draft of 89 steers, Basford and Karoonda blood.
The May/June 2017 drop calves had been weaned for three weeks onto pasture.
Tom Johnston, Swifts Creek, offered 130 steers and heifers, all April 2017 drop, and topped at $850.
“We have run Herefords for three generations in this country and they are good doing cattle,’’ Mr Johnston said.
Ron Connley, 82, of Omeo, couldn’t wipe the smile off his face at the result.
“It was bloody fantastic – a terrific sale,’’ he said.
“It was well above my expectations with my top steers making $1025 – $45 up on last year – and the heifers selling to $740.’’
Penderscourt: 14 Hereford and Shorthorn-Herefords, Yavenvale and Rosstulla blood, Jan-Feb drop, 459kg (green weight), $1240
R & R Gilmore: 13, Hereford-Shorthorn, $1130
B Dyer: 27 Herefords, Sugarloaf Creek and Karoonda blood, $1100
P & M Soutter: 21 Herefords, $1080
D F Olsson: 18, Black Baldies, $1040
R & M Pendergast: 17, Black Baldies, $1040
R & H Bowman: 15, Black Baldies, $1020
R & A Connley: 23, Herefords, $1020
L & S Pendergast: 19, Black Baldies, $1010
Ray & Max Pendergast: 14, Herefords, $990
B K Sievers: 13, Black Baldies, $990
A L Fitzgerald: 18, Herefords and H/S, $970
G Sinnott: 11, Herefords, $970
Macs Creek Pastoral: 10, Herefords, $955
G & L Troake: 12, Herefords, $940
K & J Pendergast: 19, Herefords, $935
L H & S E Pendergast: 16, Shorthorn/Hereford, $920
R T & M E Johnston: 20, Herefords, $850
B Dyer: 24, Herefords, Sugarloaf Creek and Karoonda blood, $900
R & H Bowman: 15, Black Baldies, $800
L & S Pendergast: 15, Black Baldies, $810
A L Fitzgerald: 13, Herefords, $770
G & L Troake: 11, Herefords, $730
R & M Johnston: 20, Herefords, $720
R & A Connley: 9, Herefords, $665