PESSIMISTIC expectations disappeared under the auctioneer’s call at Wodonga yesterday.
The first day of a record turnout for the annual weaner sales saw restockers from northern and southern areas along with local competition push prices higher than most were expecting.
Almost 4000 weaners were sold at the start of a month of sales that will see almost 20,000 head of cattle sold at Wodonga.
Stock agent Peter Ruaro said most producers went away happy.
“It was a little better than anticipated with people understandably nervous at the first sale of the year,” he said.
“There were buyers from Toowoomba and Gippsland, right along the east coast really and some were absorbed into the Upper Murray.
“Most producers are going home with what they expected, they know that last year’s prices couldn’t be sustained.”
Mitta farmer Ricky Montgomery was happy.
He along with his business partner sold four pens of cattle, the best of them fetching $832 a head.
“It is well down on last year but still pretty good,” he said.
“But it could always be better.”
Mr Montgomery has 500 cattle on his 284-hectare farm.
But he says that is not enough to make a living.
“I still have a job off farm, you have to,” he said.
“These prices are pretty good but the cattle would have come to the sale no matter what — we believe that when it is time to sell, it is time to sell.”
Walwa’s Michael Gadd said despite the good quality cattle, few were selling for more than $1.80 a kilogram.
“If it rained up north it might make a difference but at the moment this is about what farmers expect,” he said.
Andrew Lowe, a contract buyer from Wagga, bought 300 steers that were headed to feedlots and grass farms to be fattened for slaughter.
“I guess the price range was from $1.70 to $1.85 a kilogram,” he said.
“It was a good line-up of cattle, they were good quality but that’s probably where the market is at the moment — there are a hell of a lot of cattle to come in the next few weeks.”
Mitta farmer Denis Cardwell said the big problem was the lack of feed on the east coast.
“The way the prices are going here today you would be lucky to break even,” he said.
“By the time you pay $850 for a weaner and spend a year fattening and drenching it, best you can hope for is probably $1100 to $1200. It really doesn’t pay.
“At the moment there is no incentive to take on the job.”