Regular Central Highlands restocker buyers sat on their hands at Ballarat's April store cattle sale on Friday, as local conditions deteriorate and impede their ability to purchase.
"There is bugger-all feed is any of the paddocks," one of Ballarat's stock agency pool said.
"A lot of people are now also facing issues with water and if there isn't a decent rain received very soon, while the ground is still warm, then it is going to be a very long and very tough winter."
The yarding of approximately 4080 head was held a week earlier than normal due to the upcoming Easter break.
It was serviced by a keen demand from lotfeeders, however the interest from the district's restockers was extremely thin.
As a result, prices, although easier in places than the centre's month-earlier sale, were similarly pitched to other recent district markets especially in the feeder steer and feeder heifer categories where some excellent drafts were offered in spite of the harshness of the season.
Heavy grown steers, which were sold without the attendance of regular South Gippsland bullock interests, made $1600-$1740 a head, to average 283 cents a kilogram.
Heavy feeder steers, weighed at 450-550kg, made $1270-$1540, and averaged 286c/kg, while lighter feeders, 360-450kg, made $980-$1430, average 308c/kg.
At the top of the market, T BM Dodds sold 14 Angus steers, 578kg, at $1680, while T Hedges sold 10 Angus, 580kg, at $1600.
Yambinya feedlot operator, J F Feedlots (JBS), was a major buyer throughout the grown steer (and grown heifer) sale, backing up its previous volume purchase from the centre's month-earlier sale.
The feeder also secured 14 Angus, 511kg, at $1490, from I J Clarke and then paid $1500 for 17 Angus, 523kg, tendered by R Hayes.
Teys Charlton Feedlot, Ravensworth, Maude, NSW, Sinclair Farms amd Westside Meats were all feeders to claim their share, along with Hopkins River and interests from South Australia.
At the head of the weaner-run, WA KM Blackmore sold 18 Angus, 439kg, at $1430, while H Wade and Sons sold 17 Angus, 426kg, at $1370.
Weaner steers, 280-360kg, made $750-$1130, average 280c/kg, while smaller weaners, 220-280kg, made $550-$790, av 251c/kg.
It was for these light weaner categories where demand wavered when weights drifted below 320kg as the feeders stepped away from the rails and the lack of depth in the restocker competition became telling.
Here, prices at times were seen to fall sharply from 280-320c/kg to 220-260c/kg, with some very light spring-drop calves - not normally seen at Ballarat - sold in the $450- $750 price bracket.
Successfully buyers of these lighter cattle came primarily from the western border areas and the lower regions of South Australia.
The demand for heifers followed a similar pattern whereby the feeders absorbed all they could at rates between 260- 285c/kg, but when off the feeders' radar, demand suffered markedly.