Calf prices were up between $100 and $150 a head on last year at a major annual sale in Wairarapa this week.
The PGG Wrightson weaner heifer sale at Masterton Saleyards on Thursday saw average prices ranging between $650 and $750, according to stock agent Steve Wilkinson.
The sale saw about 1350 heifers traded on Thursday, following about 2000 steer and 450 bull calves the previous day.
Mr Wilkinson said there was strong demand from outside Wairarapa.
"Lots of them went out of the district - Waikato, Hawke's Bay, some back to Palmerston North."
The day's top price was "$985 for a very smart pen of Charolais heifers", Mr Wilkinson said.
"The medium and lighter heifers met with very good demand. A lot probably sold in the $650 to $750 range. Most guys probably were probably up $100 to $150 on last year."
Mr Wilkinson said there was some confidence in the future of beef - and the downturn in the dairy industry was one factor at play.
Some grazing suppliers were "not going to have dairy cows this year and are moving into the beef market", he said.
Despite recent rain in Wairarapa, Mr Wilkinson said farmers in the region were still keen to shift stock off the land.
"Locally the rains we've had this week have been good, but now we need follow-up rain. It will be one month before there's any significant growth.
"Local vendors are pretty keen to get calves off cows and free up the land."