THE prospect of drought returning to the Bathurst region helped contribute to a record year of cattle trading at the Central Tablelands Livestock Exchange.
In December primary producers started to hit the panic button after months of little to no rain.
The late year sell-off resulted in a total of 97,000 prime cattle and some 47,000 store cattle going through the Carcoar-based selling centre during 2012.
In 2011 there were 90,000 prime cattle sold and 52,000 head of store cattle.
Sheep numbers for the past year were not in record proportions with 550,000 sold compared to the record year of 680,000 in 2009.
Central Tablelands Livestock Exchange (CTLX) manager Nathan Morris said yesterday there was a definite change in the breakup of cattle numbers over the past year compared to 2011.
"Overall, the number of cattle sold over both years was pretty much the same," he said.
"But the figures show a change in the numbers of fat cattle sold for slaughter and the feedlots compared to store sales.
"There was about 8-10,000 more fat cattle last year and I think that was due to there not being as much demand for restocking because no-one's got any feed left."
Mr Morris said the market had also been stronger for fat cattle in comparison to restockers.
"Prices with the influx of cattle late last year resulted in the December market flattening out," he said.
"Fortunately, the quality of stock so far hasn't been too bad, although the cattle don't have the same shine on them they had at this time in 2011.
"As yet we haven't started to see drought-affected stock, but that may change by the time February comes around.
Mr Morris said the weather forecasters are predicting average conditions on the horizon.
"They're saying it's not going to be wet, but not dry either," he said. "However, at this stage I don't think things are looking too good.
"The trouble is there are only so many number of sheep and cattle out there. That tells me we're looking at a quieter time leading into the pre-winter sell-off."
Mr Morris also noted that producers are now embracing CTLX at Carcoar.
"All that angst that was about when Bathurst closed its saleyards is well and truly gone," he said. "Competition has increased and there's good returns for producers.
"The company that owns this facility, Regional Infrastructure, are also in the throws of building a new selling centre at Tamworth.”