Spring weaners are flooding the Victorian cattle markets with up to 25 per cent more calves hitting the state's saleyards this month.
Producers are "taking the money" and selling light calves, which are being absorbed by local backgrounders, as well as major orders destined for NSW's Coonamble, Central Tablelands and Riverina.
"You're better off to sell now than feed them through a tight winter," Commission buyer Duncan Brown said.
Mr Brown purchased 1400 weaners in the past fortnight to fill NSW orders, acquired from markets at Yea, Mortlake, Warrnambool and Narracoorte, South Australia.
"It's across the board that weaners are entering the market early - everywhere you go they're taking the money," he said.
"We bought cattle in January and they've put on 50 to 70kg to about 350kg, where they would usually be fattened to 450-480kg and sold after ten months because the money is so good now."
The early sell-off could lead to a void of fat cattle on offer in spring, Mr Brown said.
The early sell-off was reflected by a 23pc spike in weaner steers offered at Bairnsdale last month, according to Thomas Elder Markets analyst Matthew Dalgleish, compared to the same period last year.
"There is still a strong restocking intent so it makes sense that producers are choosing to hold onto heifers ahead of steers at the moment," Mr Dalgleish said.
Reflecting the nation's herd rebuilding focus is east coast cattle slaughter that is 16pc down on the same week in 2021, and 38pc under the five-year average trend for this time in the season, he said.
Nutrien Ag Solutions Colac livestock manager Phil Douglas said last year's winter was encouraging producers to sell early and avoid feeding.
"Time and money is the greatest influence because people were sick of feeding last year so they're quitting cattle early," Mr Douglas said.
"Prices look to stay relatively stable so why wouldn't you take that money?
"To get $1800-$2200 for light weaners now is more attractive than holding and feeding to get $2500."
His client, Con and Maree De Groot, Springbank, Narebethong, took this advice and sold weaners three months early at Yea's store sale on Friday.
The De Groots sold 65 weaners, including 35 Angus steers which topped at $2880, and 30 heifers to $2580, for a draft average of $2525. Last year, they brought their autumn marketing forward to winter for a steer draft averaged of $2175.
Mr Douglas said prices had held up across the state recently despite the influx of yardings, driven by insatiable northern demand.
"Western NSW has had good rains so we will see them start coming into the market more," he said.
"The prices will frighten a few of the northern orders but the competition will hold that lighter end as they can fit more on the truck.
"At the moment, instead of hooking cattle we are selling a lot of store cattle that aren't far off being bullocks - producers are taking $3000 instead of waiting to get $3200 in the spring.
"This will change a lot of things in the spring as feeder blokes chase cattle... the lighter end are riding the coattails of feeder prices."
Elders Yea livestock manager Jamie Quinlan said cattle traders were motivated by the forward contracts of nearly 650 cents a kilogram for feedlot ready from August to October.
"It is a viable trade buying these weaners at 250-320kg steers with the idea of giving them five months on grass and crops and then destined for a feedlot at 380-500kg," Mr Quinnlan said.
"We have seen a slight easing and correction in the market but there has been a considerable number of cattle sold this month, from central tablelands' weaner sales to the western district and Gippsland selling a lot of spring weaners."
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