THE recent surge in cow prices was not sustained at prime sales during the past week with the NSW Cow Indicator slipping eight cents a kilogram to settle at 274c/kg.
That's in contrast to the prime young cattle market which continued to zoom higher.
But even though the cow market did soften, it's still nearly 100c/kg higher than this time last year.
Plasto and Company livestock agent Aaron O'Leary said heavier, export cows sold to 299c/kg at Dubbo last Thursday, while the few restocker pens offered made up to 272c/kg.
He said if prices remained similar in the coming weeks and months, it would make a huge difference to producers recovering from drought.
"Everyone around here has been feeding and has had massive inputs of $400 to $800 per cow, so they need these prices to be able to continue," Mr O'Leary said.
He said there were very few lighter cows on the market, with producers prioritising restocking efforts over cash injections.
"A lot of producers in the Dubbo district have completely destocked, so trying to get back in is the hurdle now," he said. "I would say at least 70 per cent of the cattle headed north of Dubbo last week," Mr O'Leary said.
Elders Wagga livestock agent, Joe Wilks said the cow market was still incomparable to recent years, despite backing off by a few cents in most categories at Wagga on Monday. He said cows less than 400kg made up to 295c/kg, while the heaviest made 302c/kg.
"We couldn't see the cow market get any dearer and if this was the settling point everyone would be really happy," Mr Wilks said.
"But I don't know how sustainable 300c/kg for cows is, so I think it will have to soften a little more to find its base."
Mr Wilks said restocker cows were still in high demand, most selling for 250c/kg to 285c/kg, as producers realised they would have to meet the market to get anything back in the paddock.
"Last year we saw a lot of selling off of anything that wasn't in calf, then late last year people dipped into their breeding herd," he said.
"Now with some rain people are trying to fill the paddocks back up again but there's a long way to go, it will be months and months."
Nathan Purvis of Colin Say and Co, Inverell said the best grain fed cows were making 295c/kg, back by five to ten cents from last week while good restocking cows were making 270-280c/kg.
He said with a limited supply of lighter cows on offer, restockers were outbidding processors for any cows that could return to the paddock.
He said the cows currently coming through the saleyards were still grain-fed but that might change in coming weeks.
"I think the supply of kill cows could become an issue," Mr Purvis said.
"Due to the severity of the drought producers are low on numbers and there is now an abundance of grass on hand in our area so I think producers would look to retain females."