AFTER weeks of falling prime cattle prices, the market may have finally found the bottom and be heading for a positive trend this week.
On Tuesday, the Eastern Young Cattle Indicator had climbed nearly 36 cents a kilogram (carcase weight) in the past week to 421c/kg.
But the northern NSW weaner sales last week may have been ahead of the trend as they managed to push aside the negative prime cattle values of recent weeks to record a much better than expected result.
Chris Paterson Stock and Station Agent principal Chris Paterson, Tamworth, said vendors and agents were very pleased with the result after the 6th annual Virbac weaner challenge and feature sale in Tamworth last Friday.
"I think everyone thought the market was stronger than we were expecting," Mr Paterson said.
It was an uncertain time for weaner producers to be selling their stock last week - the annual weaner sales had been brought forward due to the drought; big lines of light weaners had already been offered at prime sales and forced the market down, and nobody really knew for sure if regular buyers would support the sales with much of the eastern states so dry.
Mr Paterson said the big numbers available at Tamworth drew restockers from Queensland and southern districts to underpin the sale.
"Especially the Queenslanders were the strength, and our sale was built around their support," Mr Paterson said.
He said top of the market values equated to upwards of 300c/kg (liveweight).
Likewise, Gunnedah's Powerhouse weaner sale attracted volume buyers from Rockhampton and St George in Queensland and competition from Tasmania and Victoria.
Rod and Wendy Williams, Loloma, Coolah, are regular vendors at the sale and said prices were much better than they anticipated. Their eight-month-old, Charolais-cross steers averaged 252c/kg.
Davidson Cameron and Company general manager Luke Scicluna said under the circumstances the Gunnedah sale was pretty good.
"The result's probably above where I thought it might have been," Mr Scicluna said.
He said the weaner heifers would have been 40c/kg to 50c/kg in front of comparable heifers sold at a regular prime market at Gunnedah or Dubbo.
The strength in weaner sale prices was not only felt at the North West markets last week. In the New England, sales at Glen Innes and Tenterfield also attracted buyers from as far as Narracoorte in South Australia right up to Winton in Queensland.
Weaner steers were the order of the day for buyers looking to feed onto feedlot weights, while demand for heifers to put back in the paddock was also strong. SA orders for quality weaned heifers was particularly solid at Tenterfield.
The solid results at last week's markets bodes well for sales in the next few weeks. There are already 10,000 weaners advertised for the annual Central Tablelands Cold Country Blue Ribbon Weaner Sale later this month. Tamworth, Casino, Cooma, Yass, Armidale and Inverell also have multiple sales running this month and into April and May.
While some of these sales have been scheduled earlier than normal, meaning the calves will be lighter, agents say the quality is a standout in this year's run of calves.