Tough year squeezes lamb weights

Countryman - - NEWS - Rueben Hale

Tough sea­sonal con­di­tions have pushed lamb weights down dur­ing the busy Christmas pe­riod.

WAMMCO has pro­cessed around 90,000 un­der­weight lambs for the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive month.

Sheep pro­duc­ers say pas­tures have been heav­ily im­pacted by one of the dri­est win­ters on record for the grow­ing sea­son, com­pounded by the emer­gence of sub-clover red leaf syn­drome strip­ping crit­i­cal nu­tri­ents from grass.

Through­out north­ern and east­ern sheep pro­duc­ing ar­eas, nu­tri­ent-rich pas­tures thriv­ing from sum­mer rains wilted be­fore sig­nif­i­cant rains fell in June.

In the south, pad­docks have been af­fected by the red sub clover be­tween Brook­ton and Esper­ance this sea­son.

Symp­toms in­clude red leaves, stunted plants and even pre­ma­ture plant death — all lead­ing to low pas­ture pro­duc­tion.

WAMMCO chief ex­ec­u­tive Coll MacRury said costs due to the loss of weight had been ab­sorbed by pass­ing on his­tor­i­cally high global prices for qual­ity lambs.

“The co-op­er­a­tive were able to of­fer for­ward con­tract prices back in Septem­ber that pre­dicted a strong global de­mand, based mainly on its mem­ber­ship of the Aus­tralian Lamb Co-op­er­a­tive which mar­kets prime lamb into North Amer­ica,” he said.

“Our weight and grade prices on of­fer to pro­duc­ers were also at his­tor­i­cal highs dur­ing the sea­son, and we are hop­ing for the fur­ther bonus of a trad­ing re­bate to qual­i­fy­ing pro­ducer mem­bers in Au­gust, if the buoy­ant con­di­tions con­tinue.”

Bev­er­ley sheep pro­ducer and Sheep­meat Coun­cil com­mit­tee mem­ber said sheep pro­duc­ers had bat­tled to keep their an­i­mals in good con­di­tion this year.

“The lack of rain in the north and the sub clover red leaf in the south has been a bit of a dou­ble whammy for the in­dus­try,” he said. “Here in Bev­er­ley we got 36mm of rain in May, none in April, 4mm in June and then noth­ing sub­stan­tial un­til mid-July.

“Many peo­ple were still hand feed­ing their sheep again in Au­gust af­ter the spring flush had passed and those that had plenty of mois­ture and green­ery were hav­ing their pad­docks at­tacked by the sub clover red leaf.”

Mean­while, WAMMCO plant man­ager Tony Bes­sell said a plen­ti­ful sup­ply of lambs and mut­ton had em­ploy­ees at the co-op­er­a­tive’s Katan­ning plant work­ing 10 con­sec­u­tive Satur­days.

He said new el­e­ments of the pro­cess­ing sys­tem were per­form­ing be­yond ex­pec­ta­tion and global cus­tomers ex­pressed sup­port for WAMMCO’s ex­tended and up­graded qual­ity and range of prod­uct.

“Direc­tors of the co-op­er­a­tive had ap­proved a ma­jor up­grade of the plant’s power ca­pac­ity from 2000 to 4000kVA to ac­com­mo­date fur­ther au­to­ma­tion of plant and equip­ment,” he said.

The Katan­ning plant will close to­day for the Christmas break, re­sum­ing on Jan­uary 2.

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