There was a buzz but not many bargains at Victoria’s 81st annual mountain calf sales as cattle prices soared to extraordinary heights.

Key points:

  • Cattle have fetched exceptional prices at the mountain calf sales in the Victorian High Country
  • Buyers from across Victoria and interstate flocked to the 81st mountain calf sales at Hinnomunjie, Omeo, Benambra and Ensay
  • Farmers are spending up big on young cattle as they restock after drought

Five sales were held across two days in stunning mountain country at Hinnomunjie, Omeo, Benambra and Ensay.

Jane and Craig Lloyd sold their 11-month-old weaners at Ensay on Wednesday for an eye-watering top price of $2,010 per head.

“It was terrific.”

The same buyer purchased calves from the couple 14 months ago, two days before bushfires tore through their farm.

“It’s good that he can take them down to King Island and turn them into more money for him,” Mr Lloyd said.

“The main thing is that we get a good price and he can make a quid out the other side.

A man and a woman stand smiling in front of cattle at saleyards.

Craig and Jane Lloyd lost valuable farmland in bushfires, but their hard work with their cattle is paying off.(

ABC Rural: Kellie Lazzaro


‘Extreme rates’

Elders national livestock manager Peter Homan, who travelled from Queensland for the sales, said everyone was “a tad cautious” trading at such prices.

“But everyone needs to be a bit careful about what they’re buying … at these extreme rates.”

Mr Homan said vendors in East Gippsland deserved all the good fortune they could get.

“They have had more droughts than most people and then throw in the odd fire and the odd flood — they deserve everything they get,” he said.

Benambra sheep and cattle producers Jackie and Kelvin Pendergast sold steers to a top of $1,980 at Hinnomunjie on Tuesday.

Mrs Pendergast said it had been one of the best years she could remember for cattle.

“You have your boom and bust times but at the moment cattle are doing extremely well,” she said.

“Normally, wool might be good, and cattle not so good — you’ve usually got one carrying the other but the last few years every commodity has been up.”

A woman stands in front of a pen of Hereford cattle.

Jackie Pendergast says strong prices across all commodities allow overdue farm improvements after the long drought.(

ABC Rural: Kellie Lazzaro


Lighter cattle selling well

Bairnsdale Elders agent Morgan Davies said the annual sales got off to a slightly stressful start, when on Tuesday afternoon calves got out on to the road at Omeo.

“We were chasing them all over the countryside, they were in people’s backyards in Omeo and it was the worst!

“But anyway we got through that, it was very stressful, but we are on the other side of that and … everything has sold and it’s all good.”

Mr Davies said lighter cattle sold particularly well.

“You know, 180-kilo cattle making $1,500 … it’s exciting to see,” he said.

“The thing about these cattle is they’re not anywhere, there are good seasons across the eastern seaboard and not many people are selling these light weaners.

“People are bidding so strong on those cattle because they’re exactly what they want and they are very hard to find.”

A woman and man stand in front of penned cattle.

Albert Weisman said prices were so strong for lighter, younger calves that it was not worth holding onto them.(

ABC Rural: Kellie Lazzaro


‘Toughest cattle in Australia’

Albert Weisman is new to farming, having moved from Melbourne to Benambra five years ago.

“I am pretty wet behind the ears but it has been a fantastic season … it’s been raining at the right time, grass is growing, the cattle are looking great,” he said.

He sold 23 small steers at Hinnomunjie on Tuesday to a top price of $1,650 and could not believe the prices.

“I got well over my expectations. If you had looked at the market two years ago, I probably would have got a quarter of what I got today.”

He said the annual mountain calf sales were renown as one of the best in the country.

Agents in pink shirts, selling Angus cattle in a high country saleyard.

A top price of $1,950 was recorded at Tuesday’s Angus sale at Omeo.(

ABC Rural: Peter Somerville


“The quality of the cattle up here, they come from the high country and as soon as you put them in the lowlands in the warmer climate they just do really well … they put on a lot of weight,” Mr Weisman said.

“These cattle are renown to be the toughest in Australia so that’s why people come here to buy cattle.”

The top price paid at the Hinnomunjie sale on Tuesday was $2,390.

Mr Weisman said he would put the extra income towards 100 hectares of new winter crops.

A woman leans on a walking stick, with saleyards behind her.

Eileen Douglas of Benambra has only missed one Hinnomunjie calf sale in her 86 years.(

ABC Rural: Kellie Lazzaro


‘I’ve only missed one!’

Eileen Douglas, 86, stood out at Hinnomunjie on Tuesday, walking the runs with the aid of a cane.

She said she had only missed one calf sale at Hinnomunjie in 80-odd years and said the annual sale was an important social event for the entire district.

“[I enjoy] talking to people, because I live on my own, and it is very lonely at times.”

Mrs Douglas said while it was wonderful to see the market doing so well, producers should prepare themselves for a correction.

“It’ll go down and then it will go up … but just keep going,” she said.

‘I couldn’t hold my poker face’: Victorian High Country abuzz as prices soar at mountain calf sales
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