The amount of cattle sold at Maitland Saleyards this month has more than doubled as farmers grapple with the ongoing big dry.
Bowe and Lidbury stock and station agents had 1300 cattle at their weekly sale on January 6 and 1200 on January 13. Usually they would see about 500 less at each sale at this time of the year.
Dwindling water supplies and painfully parched paddocks have left farmers across a wide section of the Hunter with no choice but to reduce their herd.
But there is a silver lining - the price they are fetching is strong.
The whiff of rain in the air - and the strongest prediction yet from the Bureau of Meteorology, saw prices jump between the two sales.
Mr Bowe said farmers who sold cattle at the January 13 sale walked away with an extra $80 to $150 per animal, depending on the type of cattle and the weight.
"It got a little bit dearer in anticipation of rain," he said.
"At the January 6 sale the prices were about the same as they were before Christmas."
Read more:The Big Dry
"The cattle will be even dearer if it rains here. Overall the prices have been pretty good considering how the season has been."
Strong interest from cattle farmers in southern Victoria - who are having an outstanding season, has kept prices high.
There has also been buyers from parts of the New England region that received rain last month.
"There were a lot of small calves that would have normally been sold in April or May. People have pulled the calves off their cows to give them a chance," Mr Bowe said.
The market is a real gamble at the moment - if you hold on you might not get rain. If you send them in you might get rain.
More than 93 per cent of the Hunter is in intense drought and 6.4 per cent is in drought, according to the state government's Combined Drought Indicator.
Across the state 58.9 per cent is in intense drought, 9.8 per cent is in drought and 31 per cent is drought affected.
Farmers were already pulling out of the January 18 cattle sale on Thursday after rain started falling across the Hunter.
Mr Bowe predicts the amount of cattle at the sales will plummet over the next few weeks while farmers wait and see if mother nature will deliver enough rain to see them through.
"Even with a whiff of rain about that will keep people holding onto their cattle," he said.
"We've had a few predictions but they haven't happened, this is the strongest prediction we've had for a long time and they want to hold on and see what happens."
Those that are close to running out of water have no option but to sell.
Mr Bowe said the cattle from Gresford, Dungog, Stroud and even around Cessnock were being sent in because the dams had dried up.
"A lot of people are running out of water, you can see it on the legs of the cattle - they've got mud on them and that means they are bogging in the dam to get a drink," he said.
The water problems are pretty widespread. A lot of people are cleaning their dams out at the moment and hoping there will be rain in them soon.
"If we get rain there is going to be a big shortage of cattle and there will be a shortage for a long while. And what is left will be dearer."