WEANER prices have taken a $100 hit as the drier season hinders buyer confidence.
With 14,644 weaners of the close to 100,000 already sold at markets in northern Victoria and the Western District, vendors are being forced to accept rates well below last year.
Few are surprised, as a hot, dry summer, a lacklustre spring and soft demand for prime cattle drain confidence.
Albury Wodonga stock agents association president Michael Unthank said the sale went "as expected''.
"The market is exactly where we thought it would be,'' he said.
"The steers have sold well and the heifers have been tough enough, but that is nothing new.''
Mark Quilter from Narrandera, in NSW, topped the first two days of Wodonga weaner sales when his steers made $784.
"This year the calves are 20kg heavier but made $136 less than last year,'' he said.
"It was exceptional last year but we are still better off than we were two years ago.''
Buying strength for the North East sales was buoyed by competition from northern NSW and Queensland, with cattle sent to Toowoomba, Inverell, Walgett, Scone and Dorrigo.
In the Western District, buyers were active from Inverell, Walcha, Bathurst and Yass in NSW, Gippsland, South Australia's South East and southwest Victoria.
There was a noticeable lack of big volume buyers from NSW operating on lightweight calves at the Western District sales, resulting in no price increases for small steers as in previous years.
Peter MacCallum, MacCullum Inglis, from Scone, in NSW, bought about 200 heifers over two days of sales at Wodonga.
"It is a lot cheaper market than last year,'' he said.
Kerr and Co agent Craig Pertzel, from Hamilton, said: "No rain anywhere meant there were no big numbers of northern buyers down here compared to previous years.''
- Read more in tomorrow's The Weekly Times.