LIVESTOCK will swamp southeast Australian saleyards this week amid concerns about the deteriorating season.
Over the next three days, almost 20,000 cattle and 70,000 sheep will be offered at store sales in Victoria, the NSW Riverina and South Australia's South East.
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Some yardings are up by almost 50 per cent on last year.
Prime markets are also bulging at the seams and processing works are full or near capacity before the Christmas break.
The rush comes despite depressed prices for lambs, sheep and cattle.
Hamilton will yard 50,000 lambs today in its biggest offering this year.
Kerr and Co Livestock agent Robert Claffey said producers simply needed to quit lambs.
A dry spring, a lack of summer crops, no lucerne and high grain prices meant many felt they should sell lambs now, he said. Cash flow for producers was also a factor.
"You hear there are big numbers going direct to the works but there are also 'normal' numbers coming through the yards," Mr Claffey said.
"It's starting to really dry out here and what else can they do?
"Lambs are a perishable product and the fall-back positions of running on summer crops aren't there due to no rain, and lotfeeding doesn't work at $300 a tonne for grain."
T&R Pastoral small stock manager Paul Leonard confirmed his works were almost fully booked until the new year.
"(And) January is pretty well covered with contract lambs at our southern operations," Mr Leonard said.
And while the season has flushed out big numbers, the dispersal of the famous Uardry Merino and Dohne studs at Hay has also swelled this week's offering.
About 18,000 sheep will be yarded at sales today and on Friday.
Elders agent Ron Rutledge said the sales had generated "suitable interest".
"It is the biggest Dohne dispersal in the world (8600 sheep) and the largest Merino dispersal for some time," Mr Rutledge said.
While store cattle sales crank up in the new year - when 92,000 weaners and 12,000 breeding females will be offered - the market is already feeling the heat of increased yardings.
It has also placed pressure on prices.
Last week's store cattle sale at Euroa saw values well down on last year.
Joined females averaged $816, down $250 compared with the same sale last year, while cows and calves averaged just $959, a dive of $341.
Wodonga's store market also slipped last week, with some lines of unjoined heifers making as little as 130c/kg in an offering of 2000, up from the 1500 advertised.
Elders Naracoorte livestock manager Tom Dennis said Naracoorte's steer weaner offering this Friday had jumped to 6200 head - up 48 per cent on last year. "It's getting pretty dry down here and everyone wants to sell early," he said.
Mr Dennis said prime markets throughout spring had also been running at seasonal highs as producers looked to offload stock.
Next week's heifer weaner market had also blown out, with numbers up about 25-30 per cent to 1900 head.
Prime cattle markets have also come under pressure, with the Eastern Young Cattle Indicator closing at 331c/kg on Monday - down almost 70c/kg on this time last year.
Corcoran Parker director Trevor Parker said the offering of prime cattle at Wodonga yesterday included good lines but also plainer quality.
Producers were selling regardless of lower rates.
"It's the end of spring, the season has cut out and that's all there is to it," he said.
"Prices aren't great but the season is the main driver and the cattle have to go."