Lot feeders and a live export order underpinned the Wodonga Blue Ribbon Weaner Sale, with prices for whiteface steers topping at 308c/kg and heifers at 283c/kg.
Selling agents Brian Unthank Rural, Peter Ruaro Rodwells, Corcoran Parker and Schubert Boers yarded 4288 Hereford, Hereford cross and Euro mixed sex weaners on January 9.
Topping the purebred weaner offering on a dollars per head basis was the McCormack family, “Muskerry”, Bullioh, Vic, with a pen of 22 Mawarra blood steers, 10-12 months, and weighing 393kg, selling for $1135 or 288c/kg to JBS Australia.
John and Jane Witherow, Murmungee, Vic, topped the Hereford yarding on a cents per kilogram basis at 306c/kg with 343kg steers, eight to 10 months.
Mullwood Partnership, Holbrook, topped the overall yarding for autumn drop whiteface steers at $1300 for 10-11 month-old black baldies weighing 451kg.
In the purebred yearling and heavy grown steers over 350kg, prices settled at $650-$1210 or 238-287c/kg.
The black baldy portion sold for $735-$1425 or 227-286c/kg.
Moving into the autumn drop 2019 weaners, Hereford steers weighing over 350kg were $940-$1135 or 242-294c/kg.
Steers weighing 250-350kg finished at $650-$1055 (equal to the 2019 sale) or 233-306c/kg and the lighter weights under 250kg settled at $560-$720 or 261-275c/kg.
In the black baldy pens, steers over 350kg finished at $1050-$1300 or 278-308c/kg, and those under 350kg sold for $830-$970 or 287-307c/kg.
In the heifer pens, grown Hereford females over 350kg made $970-$1110 or 255-279c/kg and those under 350kg $470-$850 or 185-256c/kg.
Grown black baldy females sold for $525-$1270 or 211-283c/kg, while the weaners under 350kg made $395-$845 or 212-261c/kg.
Active buyers included JBS Australia, Landmark International, Ladysmith and Ravensworth feedlots, Westside Meats Bacchus Marsh, Davidson Cameron & Co Gunnedah, Rodwells Benalla, commission buyer Andrew Lowe and Albury-Wodonga agents.
Ongoing fires in the Upper Murray and Gippsland prevented many buyers, steer finishers and vendors from attending the sale, while the northern drought also resulted in a subdued northern buying presence.
Albury commission buyer Graeme Ward judged the Herefords Australia champion pen of steers, awarding the sash to Jeanette McCormack, her son David and granddaughter Clare, Bullioh. The pen went on to top the purebred weaner offering for the family and it was their third win in four years.
Mr Ward was impressed the structural correctness, bone, genetics and health care of the steers.
He said EU accredited cattle were in “terrific demand” this season, driven by feedlot demand.
The McCormack’s had topped the 2019 sale with their weaners at $1150.
Mr McCormack said an ordinary season had resulted in the calves weaned on December 2 onto silage and hay, with weights up 5kg on last year.
Andrew Wishart, Landmark International, helped to underpin the sale, buying British bred steers, weighing 250-350kg, for a live export order destined for Russia.
He had averaged 297c/kg at Yea and was paying 285-290c/kg at Wodonga.
Some vendors were left around 15c/kg short of their expectations as the market softened on the back of strong demand at the Victorian western district sales where EU accredited Hereford steers sold to 330c/kg.
David Trethowan, Cookardinia, sold a quality draft of 47 Concordia blood steers, 377kg, for $1080 or 286c/kg.
He had weaned the steers in December following a “fair spring” and had anticipated 300c/kg.
“The (lack of) EU accreditation had made no difference to the market here in the past,” Mr Trethowan said.
Garry Zauner, Bungil, offered 100 March-April drop calves on the back of a dry season, lack of water and nearby fires.
His tops of Yavenvale blood, yard weaned steers, weighing 326kg, sold for $920 or 282c/kg to Landmark International.
“The Hereford breed is an appropriate and sensible animal for our country – they do well, the temperament is perfect,” he said.
“We are not looking for an extreme animal.
“The fires were on our doorstep and lots of our neighbours are struggling but the only positive out of this is how strong the community spirit is.”
Also among the vendors was Tony Reardon, Brooklyn Pastoral Company, Mansfield, with Hereford and black baldy steers weaned in December on pasture and silage.
“I had been hoping for 300c/kg for the tops so it was 20c/kg under expectations but it has been a big week of sales with a lot of cattle on the market,” he said.
“I can’t keep them and just had to meet the market.”
Among the handful of northern buyers was Bill Pavitt, Guyra, buying yearling and vealer cattle for Everson’s Food Processors, Kempsey, NSW.
He was paying 230-260c/kg for killable cattle of 280-380kg.
Yarrawonga lot feeder Adam Inchbold was sourcing cattle from backgrounding to feeder weights.
“Today’s market is fair value for buyers and sellers with prices similar to last week,” he said.
“I expected it to be a bit cheaper – I am mainly after feeder heifers.”
Corcoran Parker auctioneer Justin Keane said feedlots had absorbed 60 per cent of the cattle 350kg and above.
“The lead of the calves were all in that feedlot weight so that takes a fair percentage of the cattle away from a general farmer or bullock fattener,” Mr Keane said.
He said the front paddock Herefords were around 300c/kg.
“There’s plenty of talk and speculation about what may happen later but it’s still got to rain and, with the pressure we have locally of fires and the season, I don’t think anyone could expect any more.
“The people who bought cattle at 300c/kg would be replacing bullocks sold for good money.”
Mr Keane said the middle run at $800-$850 would look cheap with a large rain.
He said the lighter steers at 270-280c/kg were buyable.
“There are very few grass improver people coming down from the north to buy cattle – in the past 70 per cent of the cattle would have headed north.
“This year it would be flat out being 10-20 per cent.
“The heavy heifers were feeder supported with three to four large companies buying, and down into the 300kg heifers there is still feedlot competition wanting backgrounders for domestic jobs.”
J McCormack, Bullioh: 22, 10-12 months, Mawarra blood, 393kg, $1135 (288c/kg)
Mountain View, Walla Walla: 17, 12-14 months, 390kg, $1125 (288c/kg)
Granite Flat Pastoral, Mitta Mitta: 24, 10 months, Mawarra and Lotus blood, 374kg, EU, $1080 (288c/kg)
Brooklyn, Mansfield: 74, Glendan Park and Centennial blood, 353kg, $1020 (288c/kg)
J Witherow, Murmungee: 16, 343kg, 8-10 months, $1050 (306c/kg); 15, 291kg, $830; 8, 255kg, $710.
Tony Marchese, Mansfield: 19, 9-10 months, 345kg, Tarcombe, Rotherfield and Wirruna blood, $990 (286c/kg)
Booroola, Avenel: 27, Yavenvale blood, 340kg, $980 (288c/kg); 40, 299kg, $855
B & W Hodgkin, Eskdale: 15, 331kg, Karoonda blood, 10-12 months, $920 (277c/kg)
R & G Zauner, Bungil: 16, Yavenvale blood, 326kg, $920 (282c/kg)
M Swasbrick, Eskdale: 18, 8-10 months, 310kg, $880 (283c/kg)
B Bowran, Wymah: 17, 311kg, Wirruna and Mt Difficult blood, $875 (281c/kg)
H Wann-Brister & Co, Benalla: 11, 282kg, $800 (283c/kg)
H Campbell, Bullioh: 21, Dunoon blood, 276kg, $780 (282c/kg)
J & B Pendergast, Wooragee: 8, 11-12 months, 265kg, $695 (262c/kg)
Caloola: 14, 9-10 months, 243kg, $645 (265c/kg)
Black baldy steers
Mullwood Partnership, Holbrook: 10, 451kg, 10-11 months, Rotherield blood, $1300 (288c/kg)
B & B Campbell, Bullioh: 55, 396kg, $1220 (308c/kg)
Granite Flat, Mitta Mitta: 22, 10 months, 395kg, $1175 (297c/kg)
J & P MacLeod, Jingellic: 13, Injemira blood, 376kg, $1090 (289c/kg)
R Thomson, Upper Lurg: 8, 388kg, $1080 (278c/kg)
A & K Heinecke, Tumbarumba: 8, 376kg, $1050 (279c/kg)
J Nankervis, Corryong: 16, Yavenvale blood, 491kg, $1250 (254c/kg)
B & J Elliott, Talgarno: 15, 434kg, $1110 (255c/kg)
Mullwood Partnership, Holbrook: 8, black baldy, 410kg, $1078 (263c/kg)
A & K Heinecke, Tumbarumba: 20, 378kg, $1070 (283c/kg)
Granite Flat Pastoral, Mitta Mitta: 26, black baldy, 10 months, 379kg, $1050 (277c/kg)
Mountain View, Walla Walla: 19, 12-14 months, 371kg, $1035 (279c/kg)
J & P MacLeod, Jingellic: 18, black baldy, Injemira blood, 350kg, $945 (270c/kg)
B & B Campbell, Bullioh: 38, black baldy, 323kg, $845 (261c/kg)