Restocking the Upper Hunter see producers opening their wallets big time in search of quality females

Pen of Angus weaner heifers, vendor Rob Stanton, Gloucester sold for $1375 a head to Nutrien Scone. Pictured is under-bidder Rob Hannaford, Gloucester. Photo: Jamie Brown.
Pen of Angus weaner heifers, vendor Rob Stanton, Gloucester sold for $1375 a head to Nutrien Scone. Pictured is under-bidder Rob Hannaford, Gloucester. Photo: Jamie Brown.

Upper Hunter cattle producers now have the grass all they need is the bovines to process those pastures into saleable red meat.

Three years of severe drought in the region meant many properties had cut breeder numbers down to as low as 25-30 per cent of normal carrying capacity or even totally destocked.

Given those figures it is little wonder lower numbers of cattle being sold through the Scone saleyards with current average numbers being 300-400 head/week whereas pre-drought that figure would be closer to 1200 head.

But drought breaking rains that arrived in late summer have transformed the district and if all goes well this could be an absolute top spring thanks to good autumn and winter rainfall.

So the search is on for quality females with agents sourcing cattle from as far away as Western Australia and western Queensland.

It was not only females buyers were after with this spring's bull sales achieving outstanding results for vendors including many on-farm record top prices and averages.

"Producers are joining everything they can at the moment to rebuild their breeder numbers, " said Scone based agent for McCallum Inglis, Stuart Sheldrake.

"If cows are out of their price range at present then they are buying heifers which is resulting in prices ranging from $1100-$1600/head for heifers to be joined during October-November.

"We are mainly sourcing cattle in the Hunter and Mid North Coast as there are no bargains to be found anywhere at present due to demand - the closer to home the lower the freight."

Buyers also also prepared to pay a premium for females that are not calving during the hot summer months, said Chris Dobie, Nutrien, Scone.

"The extra management required on those calves means PTIC autumn calving females will attract $200-$400/head premium," he said.

He described the season in the Upper Hunter as looking fantastic and that applies also to the Lower Hunter and Mid North Coast, so he advises producers to make sure vaccinations are up to date.