A dearer price trend has been evident at the early sales of the feature drafts of weaner calves at the annual sale circuit.
On the back of dwindling supplies of suitable cattle in the north, prices rose a conservative 10-15 cents a kilogram on the 2019 sales, or about $40-$50 a head.
Nearly 8000 weaners hit saleyards in Hamilton and Casterton in the first two days of the annual sales and the lure of quality, suitable cattle was reflected in demand and prices.
In an environment of catastrophic fires and continued drought across broad areas of eastern Australia, weaner prices showed positive signs.
The ongoing drought north of the Murray had forced processors and feedlotters to seek suitable cattle in the south and the weaner sales have been the beneficiary.
The benefit has been evident in the shape of a premium of 15-30c/kg being paid for cattle with the European Union accreditation stamp.
The price framed for EU cattle started on Monday at Hamilton and continued at sales on Tuesday and Casterton and again at Hamilton.
Zac Van Wegen, Kerr & Co, Hamilton, said Monday's sale indicated that weights ran a bit deeper into the yarding this year, but the highlight was the EU premium.
Mr Van Wegen said the EU premium was the most evident he had seen, coming in at 10c/kg and touching on 30c/kg in places.
Sam Savin, Landmark, Hamilton, said the EU premium was much more evident this year.
Mr Savin said the cattle presented were the same weights and same breeding, but the EU accreditation made the difference.
"There were three or four feedlots [on Tuesday] going pretty hard on EU cattle," he said.
Rick Smith, Landmark, Casterton, agreed.
"The biggest thing that stood out ... was vendors who had EU cattle because if you had the green sticker, you were looking at a 20-25c/kg premium," Mr Smith said.
Jamie Bellinger, Elders, Casterton, said Tuesday's sale was 5-10c/kg dearer than last year.
"That's a reflection on the season because feedlotters and backgrounders are struggling to find heavy cattle," he said.
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Aaron Malseed, Elders, Hamilton, said feedlotters at the Tuesday sale at Hamilton had been looking for EU cattle "ready to go straight into a feedlot".
Feelotters from as far as Queensland and northern NSW, as well as SA, competed strongly for cattle that suited their needs.
Weather and fire damage to pastures and feed impacted demand from grass fatteners who normally take big numbers from these sales.
While many of the usual repeat buyers made the trip, the tally of cattle purchased was curtailed.
Mr Savin said cattle in the 260kg-plus price bracket at Tuesday's sale, non EU, still made 315c/kg and more, "which we were very happy with".
The lighter weight steers came under competition from backgrounders and export orders as well as specific orders from processors.
Mortlake Stock Agents Association president and Charles Stewart Nash and McVilly manager Alister Nash said its sale was consistent throughout.
"There weren't many holes but we didn't have the number of cattle here that were drawn for," Mr Nash said.
Colac Stock Agents Association president and Charles Stewart & Co agent Matthew Nelson said a bit of rain would see the cattle market improve.
But Mr Nelson said to see a big jump, that rain would have to be country-wide.