Whiteface vendors pocketed an extra $156 a head for heifers and $72 for their steers above other British breeds at the 79th annual Mountain Calf Sales.
Held at Benambra, Ensay and Omeo on March 12-13, the mountain calf sales yarded 5502 cattle this year, despite some vendors electing to sell earlier at the January weaner sales.
Autumn drop whiteface steer prices peaked at Ensay at $1220 and heifers at Omeo at $1090.
Going into the sales, dry seasonal conditions and a softening cattle market had created nerves for vendors.
The majority of calves had been weaned early and either supplemented or run on creek flats.
Vendors had rounded down their expectations generally by $200 a head, but were caught by surprise when two international live export orders competed against each other for Hereford heifers.
The heifers, weighing 280-360kg and purchased from Herefords Australia members, are bound for breeding programs in Russia and Kazakhstan.
The additional competition resulted in heifer prices surging to steer level and finishing at $1090 resulting in a windfall for Victorian high country producers who had held females back for the two-day event.
The majority of cattle sold to Gippsland, Victoria’s north-east, King Island, the Riverina, and Tasmania.
Repeat steer finishers did not hold back when it came to bidding on the heavy end.
Typical of those was local fattener Paul Pendergast who has bought the same Shorthorn-Hereford line for the past 11 years and recently sold a draft of those steers to a top of $2300.
He was quick to reinvest, buying the opening pen at Benambra calf sale for $1030 to grass finish over winter.
The whiteface offering hit its peak when 1100 Hereford and Hereford cross steers and heifers were sold at Ensay on March 13 for an overall average of $793.
The sale averaged $763 for steers and $709 for heifers.
This outpaced the steer average at the Omeo Angus sale on March 12 by $72, the heifers by $156 and the overall sale average by $154.
The overall average for the Elders Benambra Weaner Sale was $740, with steers averaging $776 and heifers $682.
A total of 1331 mixed sex whiteface cattle were yarded at Benambra.
The final leg at Omeo yarded 1471 head to average $727 with steers at $777 and heifers averaging $645.
In comparison, Omeo’s Angus sale yarded 3162 cattle for an overall average of $639, a $691 steer average and $553 for the heifers.
Autumn drop Angus steers topped at $1010 while whiteface vendors were $210 a head in front with a 2019 top price of $1220.
So, how were the whiteface calves tracking on a cents per kilogram basis?
Unfortunately, just two vendors regularly display indicative green weights on their steers each year.
Jim Pendergast, Penderscourt, Hinnomunjie, listed a green weight for his top pen of May-June drop steers of 345kg at the Benambra Calf Sale.
They sold for $1030 to give an estimated curfewed price of 314c/kg.
Barry Newcomen, Ensay, weighed a sample of the tops of the draft at the Ensay Weaner Sale to average 415kg.
The pen sold for $1220 to return a curfewed price of $309c/kg.
But, the vast majority of backgrounders had set their budgets on a dollars per head basis with the orders centring around lighter steers at 240c/kg and the better quality types for lot feeding or grass fed programs at 300c/kg.
The Mountain Calf Sales are one of the few fixtures where large runs of European Union accredited whiteface cattle can be sourced, however many buyers did not elect to retain the calves within the system this year.