A new benchmark was set when Hereford heifers sizzled at the opening Elders fixture of the 76th Annual Mountain Calf Sales with prices reaching a scorching $1200.
A big crowd of buyers and vendors descended on the Benambra yards with selling agents Elders penning 2250 Hereford and Hereford cross steers and heifers on March 16.
Vendors were left smiling as they reported averages for their steer and heifer offerings up as much as $150-$250 on last year.
Lotfeeders nervous about dwindling cattle numbers competed strongly with restockers in the heifer pens, pushing prices beyond $920 on the bigger lines.
The opening pen of 15 Hereford steers, European Union accredited and April/May drop, was sold by Kelvin and Jackie Pendergast, Benambra, for the top price of $1300 to Elders Bairnsdale.
The couple also snared the top price for heifers of $1200, a new benchmark for the fixture.
Lot feeder Andrew Talbot, Killara Feedlot, Quirindi, NSW, judged the Herefords Australia Champion Pen, awarded to Russell and Merilyn Pendergast, Benambra, for 15 Mawarra blood Herefords.
The April-May drop steers had been yard weaned then fed forage rape and hay.
Mr Talbot said the steers, which sold for $1190, were ideal to grow out as heavy grassfed or feeder steers.
“Despite a difficult season, these calves have held their thickness and condition,’’ Mr Talbot said.
“They are soft, have wonderful weight for age at 340-350kg, and the temperament is outstanding.’’
The 2016 sale resulted in a big jump in averages for the Pendergasts who had topped at $990 for steers and $640 for heifers last year.
Hereford steers sold for $620 to a top of $1300 – a rise of $10 on the Benambra Calf Sale held earlier in the day at Hinnomunjie.
There was a slight premium for European Union accredited cattle with pens selling from $890 to $1300.
Shorthorn-Hereford cross steers averaged $930.
In the heifers, Herefords sold for $665-$1200 – a jump of $300 on the morning sale at Hinnomunjie. Roan baldy heifers sold for $710-$925.
As a comparison, heifers at the Omeo Angus sale on the same day topped at $1150 while the opening pen of steers sold for $1230.
Buyers attended from Colac, Bairnsdale, Warragul, Myrtleford, Albury-Wodonga, Corryong, Wagga, Coonamble, Quirindi and South Australia.
In the heifer pens, Graham Cotterill, Benambra, rewrote the record books by paying $1200 for heifers from Kelvin and Jackie Pendergast as foundation females for a new commercial herd.
“I was told they were a good bloodline and the ones to buy,’’ Mr Cotterill said.
“I have a dairy background and was a house demolisher for 30 years but am now going into breeding Herefords. These heifers will be joined to a low birthweight bull.’’
Kelvin Pendergast did not expect his heifers to make over $950.
“I was dumbfounded. We run 140 cows and the steers and heifers were from the same drop,’’ he said.
“To make $1300 from the steers and $1200 from the heifers was amazing.’’
Richard and Anne Faithfull, Benambra, were pleased to have their top pen sell for $190 above last year’s price, the seconds up by $150 and thirds by $260.
Their top pen of 18 steers, EU accredited, sold for $1170.
Lot feeder Andrew Talbot described the sale as solid across steers and heifers.
“It indicates a lot of producers have sold cattle six to eight months ago, and have replaced them today,’’ Mr Talbot said.
“The prices were in line with the western district calves in January and all producers in the weaner sales on the Monaro and the New England will be hoping those sorts of prices hold on.
“Those heifers Killara bought will average 290-300c/kg plus freight costs of 15-20c/kg. They will be aimed at the domestic supermarket trade.
“We are already seeing supply contracting in the north, seasonal conditions have tightened so we are a little concerned about supply over the next few months.
“We have to wait a month or two before this style of animal comes through in the north, hence we come down here.’’
Mr Talbot said lot feeders had ran second fiddle to Gippsland steer finishers on price in the steer pens.
K & J Pendergast: 15 Herefords, EU, April/May drop, $1300.
R & S Cornell: 18 Herefords, EU, $1290.
C & D Anderson: 33 Herefords, $1200.
R & M Pendergast: 15 Herefords, $1190.
A & S Pendergast: 23 Herefords, $1190.
R & A Faithfull: 18 Herefords, EU, $1170.
S & L Anderson: 18 Herefords, $1150.
R & N Tomkins: 6 Herefords, $1090.
R & S Cornell: 26 Herefords, EU, $1070.
W A Pendergast & Sons: 26 Herefords, EU, $1040.
K & J Pendergast: 15 Herefords, $1200.
R & M Pendergast: 12 Herefords, $1120.
L & S Pendergast: 15 Herefords, $990.
W J C Pendergast: 10 Herefords, $970.
D Betts: 10 Herefords, $960.
C & D Anderson: 18 Herefords, $950.
D Pendergast: 10 Herefords, $930.
A & S Pendergast: 12 Herefords, $925.
B & L Pendergast: 11 Shorthorn/Herefords, $925.
Ray and Max Pendergast: 14 Herefords, $920.
C & D Anderson: 35 Herefords, $880.
P & S Soutter: 20 Herefords, $875.