PREMIER Campbell Newman got a good whiff of what was making graziers grin from ear to ear as they packed the Emerald Saleyards.
It was the smell of money on the hoof as the first sale of 2015 heralded a return to beefed-up prices.
About 2900 head were penned with fierce competition from processors, restockers and feedlotters returning an "outstanding" result to levels 60-70 cents above December's closing rates.
"It certainly was heartening to see a lot of cattle producers with a big smile on their face again, one they haven't had for a fair while," Landmark's Terry Ray said.
"Producers through both seasonal and depressed markets have been through a pretty tough time… now there is renewed enthusiasm and confidence which we hope can be sustained.
"We can only hope there is a bit of longevity in this particular lift and producers can get a couple of good seasons to get them back into a viable situation."
Mr Ray said the sale mirrored an improvement in export slaughter markets.
It also reflected much broader demand from south-east Asia for live export beasts and the condition of Central Highlands pastures soaked by recent rains.
Maureen Burns from Capella property Kalora was in celebration mode after the sale where they sent a consignment of droughtmaster-cross bullocks which sold to $2.52 a kilogram and returned $1545 each.
"Terry advised we should take the vendor's list and frame it and put it up on the wall," Mrs Burns said.
"He reckons it was pretty good and we reckon it's pretty good too.
"The market dropped out when the cattle flooded in from out west… this is getting back to the prices where they should be.
"We're in a business and that business has got to pay and this is getting back to somewhere being a paying business."
Capella's Charlie and Margaret Prince from Janibee sold 18 244kg droughtmaster-cross bullocks to $2.44kg for a return of $1326 each and 33 heifers for $716 apiece.
Last October he was getting about $1.81kg for bullocks. It was even worse in July, 2013, when the average price was $1.57kg.
"We would like to think prices have definitely turned the corner," Mr Prince said. "It was a good sale and prices were 60 cents better off a kilo this time.
"I would have been a lot happier if I could have put 300 in."
After inspecting cattle throughout the region in preparation for the sale year, Mr Ray said he was heartened by the turnaround in fortunes on the land.
"Probably since early December the regeneration of the most of the pasture in the area has been really good," he said.
"Most of it was fairly chewed out and with the new growth cattle have responded tremendously.
"The much-improved seasonal conditions have been a major contributor and I think if we can maintain even just a good, average season through the rest of the year it will keep the rates where they are.
"It will cap off a very promising outlook for 2015."
Andrew Lewis of Andrew Lewis Livestock said he hoped the positive market momentum could be maintained.
"What's happening at the moment with beef is the moons are aligning," Mr Lewis said. "We've got a season, we've got a low dollar and plenty of markets we're supplying, so it is all coming together nicely.
"Coming off a low of a year ago, I don't think I've seen it kick away so much in my 30-odd years and I hope it holds."
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