Whether it was for grass, grain or breeding programs, buyers forked out more than $18 million across nine Victorian sales for autumn drop weaners, including Hereford and Hereford infused steers and heifers, during the 2024 calf sales.
Opening the New Year selling season was the Northern Victorian Livestock Exchange at Wodonga with two Hereford and Hereford infused fixtures of 5640 head grossing $5.498 million along with a British bred Wangaratta fixture.
Buyers then moved onto the famed Victorian Western District weaner sales at Hamilton and Casterton, well known for their big lines of vendor bred Hereford cattle, fully weaned and carrying all the accreditations and health protocols.
The Western Districts sales circuit of six sales across four days for the Hereford breed resulted in 12,331 head sold for an average of $1007 and an injection of $12.42 million into the regional economy.
Overall, the autumn drop Hereford steers sold to a top price on a dollars per head basis of $1328 on the opening day at Hamilton, and on a cents per kilogram basis of 362c/kg on the opening day at Wodonga. In the female offerings, heifers topped at 350c/kg and $1067 at the final sale at Hamilton.
Vendors had experienced a challenging year in both markets and weather in the lead up to their annual turn off, with a wet winter, dry spring, and the low of the beef price cycle in October.
An influx of backgrounders, restockers, and lot feeders from southern Queensland, northern NSW, central western NSW, Riverina, north and north east Victoria, Gippsland, south west Victoria and South Australia competed strongly on the quality Herefords with weight to result in prices being above vendor and agent expectations.
A new buyer emerged this year in the Hereford lines, Willinga Pastoral, Wandoan, Queensland, buying through Marc Greening, Injemira Beef Genetics, Book Book, and putting a floor in each sale for the breed.
Mr Greening was also an active buyer on the lead calves for finishing off grass for Coles Graze and in the heifers for his own Injemira Advantage joined female program.
“The market is on the move and I’m looking to secure as many cattle as I can now as I can see a strong outlook in the coming months. A big thing for the Hereford breed is the EU market – it will be strong and that is good for the breed and the vendors who have stuck with their EU accreditation,” he said.
Yarram Park Herefords, Willaura, were consistent purchasers of heifers for their Western Districts Pastoral commercial herd of 3000 cows in South Australia. Among the lot feeders active on the Hereford calves were Princess Royal Station, Burra, SA, and Ogilvy Group, Apsley, Victoria. There was strong competition from buyers on the heavier end of the Hereford steers at all sales for short term trading in grass fed programs while the lighter calves were generally bought for backgrounding programs before grain feeding. A rise in fuel and transport costs failed to limit northern NSW and southern Queensland competition following widespread rain.
The circuit opened at Hamilton on January 9 with the first pen of Herefords weighing 405kg and returning $1328 or 328c/kg. This favourably compared to all other breeds with the tops weighing 400kg and returning $1276 or 319c/kg in the same sale.
Among the buyers was Elders National Livestock Manager Peter Homann, Rockhampton, impressed with the selection of bigger runs of fully weaned Hereford steers with accreditation and health treatments.
Mr Homann was busy buying Herefords destined for finishing in northern NSW at Gunnedah and Tamworth for grass fed programs.
“Those backgrounders are looking for preferred weights of 270-350kg at – if it is for the feedlot they are wanting a 350kg animal at 320-340c/kg,” he said.
Mr Homman said the Hereford could not be beaten for an animal to finish for a grass-fed program.
“I would rather a Hereford over anything. This grass (market) is growing and the Herefords are well suited, perfect grass cattle with quality, good conversion, temperament and they put the weight on.
“The bigger the grass programs get, the more they will want Herefords and their crosses.”
NSW steer finisher Paul Mason, Wellington, likes to buy Hereford cattle with weight from 350-410kg, paying the overall top price for autumn drop Hereford steers of $1328 from John and Liz Craig, “Inverell”, Breakaway. They will be finished on lucerne pastures with the lead cattle turned off in September and the entire mob sold within 12 months of purchase.
Mr Mason requires the European Union and Greenhams Never Ever certification on the cattle destined for a grass-fed contract into the UK.
“I buy on genetics and know all the pedigrees backwards. I’m buying a high-performance calf with good weight and growth,” he said.
Mr Mason paid to a top of $1828 for the lead run of the Craig family’s “Inverell” steers at last year’s sale and has almost finished turning them off.
“Today’s market is well priced to the fat market – a lot of the calves were $1200-$1250 and will probably sell for $2000 – the vendors and the buyers are happy.”
Jeremy Cummins, Bottlejac Trading Co, Gunnedah, NSW, judged the Herefords Australia champion pen of heifers on the final sale day at Hamilton.
He had been visiting the southern sales buying backgrounding cattle of all breeds from 300kg liveweight for northern NSW clients and described the Hereford cattle as “beautifully bred”.
“We operate around Roma, Dalby and the central west, and you won’t see any better lines of cattle than here at Hamilton, especially in the Herefords,” he said.
“The vendors put a great deal of money into bulls and there are some great herds about here. If you want to buy Hereford heifers, the first stop would be the Western Districts.”
The statistics for the 2024 sales were:
Wodonga January 4: 3085 cattle, average price per head $1055 or 296c/kg for steers and 253c/kg or $862 for heifers, top price $1285 and 362c/kg for Hereford steers
Wangaratta January 4: 1600 cattle, top price $1120 and 312c/kg for Hereford steers
Wodonga, January 5: 2555 cattle, average price $1047 or 281c/kg for steers and $846 or 258c/kg for heifers, top price $1100 and 322c/kg for Hereford steers and $940 for heifers
Hamilton January 9: 33349 steers sold, average price per head $1106 or 326c, top price $1328 and 336c/kg for Hereford steers
Casterton January 10: 1093 steers sold, average price 311c/kg, average weight 318kg, top price $1270 and 330c/kg for Hereford steers
Hamilton January 10: 2259 steers sold, average price 325c/kg or $1070, top price $1320 and 350c/kg for Hereford steers
Hamilton January 11: 1555 heifers sold, average price 301c/kg or $900, top price $970 and 340c/kg for Hereford heifers
Casterton January 12: 1856 heifers sold, average weight 299kg, average price 299c/kg, top price $998 and 332c/kg for Hereford heifers
Hamilton January 12: 2219 heifers sold, average price 325c/kg, top price $1067 and 350c/kg for Hereford heifers