Records continued to tumble at the first SA weaner sales for the new year last week, easily eclipsing the pre-Christmas highs.
After the strength of the December sales, many questioned whether there was much more upward momentum in the market, but widespread rain across eastern states has ignited further restocker demand, with buyers forced to extend their budgets by 20 cents a kilogram and sometimes more.
The two-day Naracoorte sale grossed nearly $10 million, with 3974 steers averaging a sensational $1743 and 1820 heifers averaging $1578.
This obliterated the same sale in 2020 where 4002 steers averaged $1089 and 1778 heifers averaged $808.
Similar unprecedented prices were seen at Strathalbyn, where steers topped at $5.83/kg for 210kg Angus and similar weight heifers sold to $5.45/kg.
You'd be a game person saying it will get dearer - I just don't think it can.
At the Mount Gambier store sale, 18-20-month-old steers topped at $2300.
Green Triangle Livestock director Chris Manser said Mount Gambier's steer and heifer prices rose $20-$60 a head on the December's sale, but expected the market was near its peak.
"You'd be a game person saying it will get dearer - I just don't think it can," he said.
"To have weaner steers making $1700-$1800-$1850 is really, really good and there are bullock fellas with money in their pockets who have sold grown steers for $2300-$2800 so there is still room to make a dollar if the fat market holds up.
"There would have to be a bit of nervousness paying much more than that because it is another 12 months before they are fat and come back to the yards, who knows what could be happening by then?"
Mr Manser was surprised it was a relatively small yarding at less than 2000 head, but says many feature weaner lines will come through in February and March.
"There have been some people that have weaned and (are) putting a bit more weight on them but most people are taking the money while it's there," he said.
Thomas DeGaris & Clarkson director Darren Maney praised the exceptional quality yarding at Naracoorte, describing it as some of the "best bred cattle in Australia".
But like many, he fears for the sustainability of prices.
"The scary part is that it is only grass-driven, the end commodity prices don't back it up," he said.
"All year (2020) the bullock fattener was able to sell bullocks for $2600-$2800 and replace them in the same market for $1700-$1800 and while the margins are not quite what they have been some years, there is a margin there.
"With the latest 25c/kg rise, all of a sudden if you are paying under $1800 you are buying a pretty ordinary animal - it has blown it out of all common sense."
Elders Strathalbyn livestock manager Danny Reynolds says the season will dictate the longevity of the extreme highs, but predicts the "scorching" prices could see a flurry of cattle for the next Strathalbyn sale later in the month.
RELATED: Strathalbyn steers hit $5.83/kg
"The moment that the season starts to dry off and people fill their needs I think that you will find the meat job will come back substantially and quite quickly," he said.
"Australia has the dearest beef in the world."
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