Steer finishers, backgrounders and lot feeders tempered their spending downwards on the 2022 price records, but quality Hereford autumn drop steers remained a hot ticket item selling to 585c/kg.
A total of 5040 cattle were yarded at Wodonga on January 5 for the Premier All Breeds Grown and Feature Weaner Sale including Hereford grown and weaner steers and heifers.
The yarding returned $8.296 million and averaged $1646 or 482c/kg for selling agents Elders and Paull and Scollard Nutrien Ag Solutions. In the breakdown, steers averaged $1729 or 488c/kg and heifers $1511 or 471c/kg across all breeds.
Cattle sold to Corryong, Goulburn, Gunning, Tamworth, Finley, Wangaratta, and commission buyers operating were Andrew Lowe, Graham Ward and Damian Whyte. JBS Australia operated on the heavy grown steers and Marc Greening, Injemira Beef Genetics, Book Book, was actively buying Hereford and Angus autumn drop steers.
Kicking off the sale was the heavy grown, grass-fed Hereford steers selling for $1800-$2300 or 397-457c/kg.
But the focus was on the weaners with the run of purebred Hereford steers weighing over 350kg selling for $1640-$1925 or 455-509c/kg.
Autumn drop Hereford steers weighing 280-350kg liveweight returned $1400-$1770 or 480-585c/kg while those under 280kg finished at $1300-$1400 or 530-549c/kg.
Grown Hereford heifers returned $1580-$1835 or 387-461c/kg while the autumn drop weaner heifers over 300kg made $1390-$1430 or 424-430c/kg and those under 300kg finished at $930-$1300 or 380-480c/kg.
A few pens of black baldy heifers made $1200-$1480 or 455-542c/kg.
Topping the autumn drop Hereford steer weaners was David Sleigh, Sleigh Pastoral, Ruffy, Vic, with a line of 26 Allandale, Mawarra and Wirruna blood steers, 378kg and selling for $1925 or 509c/kg to Stephen Paull, Paull & Scollard Nutrien, on behalf of Neil Schmidt, Rutherglen.
The pen had been judged as the Herefords Australia champion pen by Albury commission buyer Graham Ward.
David Sleigh also topped the weaner steers on a cents per kilogram basis with a pen of 24 weighing 292kg and selling for 585c/kg or $1710 to Neil Schmidt.
The March/April drop steers had been weaned in December and were down in weight on last year.
Mr Sleigh, who runs 300 breeders, was anticipating steer prices to be back by $500-$600 on his last year’s top price of $2400.
“I’m not sure the market has any upside from here. Ultimately it will steady up bull prices. It was extreme last year and had the correction it needed, this is probably were it needs to sit,” he said.
“This is the where the premium dollar is, turning off weaner cattle.”
Graham Ward said the steers were “beautiful quality with stretch and growth rate”.
Mr Ward was active in the Hereford pens, buying cattle for backgrounding at Gundagai and northern NSW for supermarkets, and lot feeders in South Australia.
He said the feedlot demand had eased providing an opportunity for supermarkets to step in.
Buyer Neil Schmidt likes the quiet temperament and ability of the Hereford to reach over 700kg by 17 to 18 months of age. He recently sold heavy 380-400kg dressed weight steers for 750c/kg carcase weight in the prime market.
He invested in 79 Sleigh Pastoral steers, weighing 292-378kg for $1710 to $1925.
Stephen Paull, Paull and Scollard Nutrien, described the sale as easier than last year but solid.
“Those producers will be happy with the result even though it is a reduced price on last year,” he said.
In the female pens, A T Lonergan, Sandy Creek, topped the heifer weaners with a Rotherfield blood pen weighing 337kg and returning $1430 or 424c/kg.
Cecily Trickett, Culcairn, topped the heifer weaners on a cents per kilogram basis with a pen of Wirruna blood heifers weighing 258kg making 480c/kg or $1240.
Cecily and husband Stephen run 220 breeders and offered 70 steers and 34 heifers without any price expectations.
“We’ve had a few good years but those prices were absorbed by increased fertiliser and fuel plus bull prices are 2.5 times what they were two years ago,” Stephen said.
Robert Hain, Gunyah Herefords, Cooma, made the trip to Wodonga to sell steers and heifers for the first time at the January sales.
His spring drop steers weighing 453kg made $2000 or 491c/kg.
“As a rule our store markets at home haven’t been as strong as elsewhere so I’m really just chasing the market. At this time of the year the store market down here is very strong,” Mr Hain said.
“With Herefords more people are realising there is the ability to value add their calves, keeping them on to feedlot weights. They have the ability to grow out slightly better than the Angus and the people sticking with Herefords realised that is a positive of the breed.”
Mr Hain offered July/August and October/November drop heifers to a top of $1835.
“Going off how strong the market was in those female sales last year, everyone has had a few more dollars to put back in their cattle. I’m excited to see what’s on offer at the autumn bull sales and I will get over to the Beef Week field days as I see good things ahead.
“Commercial Hereford bull buyers like the adaptability of turning a calf off at 10 or 11 months old with the option of taking them forward – they need to get going early, present well and have the ability to take them on if needed.”
David and Vicki McCallum, Tooma, sold their grown Yavenvale blood steers, 485kg, to Upper Murray steer finisher Graham Jarvis, Khancoban, for $2220.
Last year their steers of the same weight made $2700 and overall their draft of 70 steers averaged $2355.
“We will take the price correction as we want everyone dealing in the stock to make money, and the buyers to come back,” Mr McCallum said.
“When you have been in the game for a fair while, you take all price corrections. Last year was exceptional, this year is a different year. We just have to keep farming and do the best you can.”
He said the cold weather and floods had created challenging conditions to prepare weaners.
When buying bulls he selects for temperament, conformation, softness, doing ability, calving ease, and 200- and 400-day growth.
Arthur Knight, Jerilderie, was pleased to receive $1640 for autumn drop steers weighing 358kg he had bought as calves on their mothers for $3375 in January from South Australia. He now plans to sell the cows unjoined.
Justin Costello, Costello Rural, Corryong, was actively sourcing Hereford steers for Upper Murray clients supplying grass fed programs.
“They have sold cattle in the last two months to MSA grass fed programs and are looking for replacements,” he said.
‘They mainly want the cattle around 450kg and are paying the $2200 mark. We have found the cattle in the Upper Murray have been held back by two months with the cold weather and lack of pasture growth.”
Paull and Scollard Nutrien branch manager Luke Deimel said the last six weeks of 2022 saw a market decline.
“We were expecting this price trend for this first week in January. A lot of the heavy grown steers were only making 400-440c/kg,” Mr Deimel said.
“There was a marked note that you could put another $40-$50 a head on a pen of weaned steers with quite a few buyers standing off the unweaned calves.
“A lot of the Hereford calves weighing 300kg were making $1500-$1650 hovering around 500c/kg.
“There were four to five active buyers from northern NSW and southern Queensland while local commission buyers soaked up a fair percentage of the cattle.
“The price coming back has allowed those local bullock fatteners and backgrounders to step back into the market and they can see an opportunity there.”
KA Cardwell, Kergunyah: 24, Rotherfield blood, 532kg, 21-22 months, $2300; 10, 485kg, $2190 or 451c/kg
McKoy Pastoral, Holbrook: 22, 20-22 months, Ohio blood, 579kg, $2290 or 395c/kg; 27, 560kg, $2260 or 403c/kg
D & V McCallum, Tooma: 21, Yavenvale blood, 485kg, $2220 or 457c/kg
R Hain, Cooma: 14, 453kg, $2000 or 441c/kg
Jolina Pty Ltd, Cornishtown: 11, 476kg, $1890 or 397c/kg
AH Odewhan, Walla Walla: 31, Rotherfield and Ravensdale blood, 412kg, $1850 or 449c/kg
Autumn drop Steers
Sleigh Pastoral, Ruffy: 26, Allandale, Mawarra and Wirruna blood, 378kg, $1925 or 509c/kg; 32, 334kg, $1750 or 523c/kg
Sleigh Pastoral, Jerilderie: 25, Bayunga blood, 372kg, $1820 or 489c/kg
J Hiscock & Sons, Kilmore: 34, Glendan Park and Tarcombe blood, 354kg, $1790 or 505c/kg
D & V McCullum, Tooma: 31, Yavenvale blood, 335kg, $1690 or 480c/kg
H & R Long, Tamleigh: 30, Yavenvale, Glentrevor and Wirruna blood, 337kg, $1665, or 494c/kg
A T Lonergan, Sandy Creek: 20, Rotherfield blood, 362kg, $1650 or 455c/kg
A & J Knight, Jerilderie: 12, 358kg, $1640 or 458c/kg
Cecily Trickett, Culcairn: 30, Wirruna blood, 317kg, $1550 or 488c/kg
GJ Hore, Wymah: 20, Rotherfield blood, 302kg, $1500 or 496c/kg; 11, 255kg, $1400 or 549c/kg
BW Prichard, Tallangatta Valley: 18, Rosstulla blod, 296kg, $1475 or 498c/kg
R Hain, Cooma: 8, Gunyah blood, 447kg, $1835 or 410c/kg
AH Odewhan, Walla Walla: 16, Rotherfield blood, 342kg, $1580 or 461c/kg
Autumn drop Heifers
AT Lonergan, Sandy Creek: 18, Rotherfield blood, 337kg, $1430 or 424c/kg
A & J Knight, Jerilderie: 24, 323kg, $1390 or 430c/kg
GJ Hore, Wymah: 18, 278kg, $1300 or 467c/kg
Sleigh Pastoral, Ruffy: 13, 282kg, $1260 or 446c/kg
BW Prichard, Tallangatta Valley: 10, Rosstulla blood, 282kg, $1250 or 443c/kg
Cecily Trickett, Culcairn: 25, Wirruna blood, 258kg, $1240 or 480c/kg