Lamb prices “in un­charted ter­ri­tory”

The Free Press (Corowa) - - FRONT PAGE - BY JARRYD BARCA

De­spite the crip­pling im­pact of drought, the lamb mar­ket is thriv­ing.

Short­age of sup­ply, in­flu­enced by weather con­di­tions, the well-pub­li­cised drought and other fac­tors, has seen 2018 lamb prices hit a record height, adding to what has been a mas­sive sea­son.

The short­age of qual­ity stock means lambs are dearer and prices have sim­ply con­tin­ued to soar. “Lamb prices have been fan­tas­tic, they’ve ex­ceeded ev­ery­one’s ex­pec­ta­tions this year,”

Farm­ers and live­stock agen­cies who at­tend the Corowa Sa­le­yards each Mon­day have no­ticed a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in lamb prices.

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Paull and Schol­lard’s Tim Robin­son told The Free Press.

“Ob­vi­ously with well cov­ered records that have been bro­ken week af­ter week and crack­ing the 300 dol­lar mark on sev­eral oc­ca­sions through­out NSW, it’s in un­charted ter­ri­tory re­ally.

“I think the lo­cal pro­duc­ers in the area need to be con­grat­u­lated on be­ing able to pro­vide qual­ity ev­ery year, I think that it’s the mar­ket … there’s less of the qual­ity but the qual­ity is no dif­fer­ent to what it is any other year.”

The Live­stock Sales Con­sul­tant said while there has been an in­flux of lambs from the Rive­rina be­ing sent to sell­ing cen­tres in Vic­to­ria, he hasn’t no­ticed farm­ers from the north come to the lo­cal area.

To de­pict the is­sue and the ef­fect that drought can have at live­stock ex­changes, of the 40,000 lambs and sheep yarded in Bendigo on Mon­day, Au­gust 6 – of which all found a new home – it meant that more than half of the yard would be mov­ing from drought-af­fected NSW to more ideal healthy lo­ca­tions in­ter­state.

This has been a com­mon oc­cur­rence since NSW farm­ers have been strug­gling with the ef­fects of min­i­mal rain­fall. Peo­ple are able to take ad­van­tage of the op­por­tu­ni­ties to get into lambs ear­lier than ex­pected.

State records have been thor­oughly tested lately. In Cowra on Fri­day, Au­gust 17, a pen of 83 suck­ers was pur­chased for $250 per head, while the Grif­fith sa­le­yards saw a pen of suck­ers bought for $260 later that same day. That was the third-con­sec­u­tive week of Cowra see­ing record-break­ing prices.

Auc­tion­sPlus Com­mer­cial Op­er­a­tor Ed Mur­phy ad­mit­ted notic­ing a short­age of sup­ply in his data, say­ing that it’s all very sup­ply­driven at the mo­ment and there’s a con­cern of a short­age mov­ing for­ward.

“What we’re see­ing on­line mostly is a lot of of­fer­ings out of NSW and store lambs com­ing onto the mar­ket a bit ear­lier than usual due to the sea­son,” Mr Mur­phy told The Free Press.

“These lighter lambs com­ing on the mar­ket a bit ear­lier than usual … we’re not sure what’ll hap­pen mov­ing for­ward but there is def­i­nitely the de­mand there on­line and good prices.

“They’re a bit lighter and com­ing on ear­lier than usual which is pretty dis­ap­point­ing for NSW farm­ers, but they’ve got to do it, just got to have fewer mouths to feed.

“At the mo­ment it’s pretty much hold­ing on for them keep­ing their ewes alive and that means turn­ing the lambs off a bit ear­lier than they usu­ally would at that sort of mid 20s in­stead of 30 kilo mark.”

Ac­cord­ing to Auc­tion­sPlus, some of south­ern NSW and sur­round­ing re­gions of­fered 5,473 head last week, of which 3,080 will be trav­el­ling across the south­ern border as they were pop­u­larly bought out of south­ern Vic­to­ria.

One lot of 350 NSM border le­ices­ter/merino ewes from Thal­lon, QLD, were pur­chased out of Spence, SA, and will travel 1,600km.

Mul­wala’s Green­shields lamb pro­ducer Ryan Don­a­van, who buys in and sells at the Corowa mar­ket, says it’s a good time to be in the in­dus­try.

“It al­ways has been, and now it def­i­nitely is,” he told The Free Press.

Al­though not break­ing records him­self, Mr Dono­van is see­ing at times a 40-50 dol­lar in­crease for his lambs com­pared to this time last year.

“Prices right now are very solid for any­thing qual­ity, there could still be a good fu­ture in it I think,” he said.

“Any­thing of qual­ity is be­com­ing sought af­ter which is why you’ve got the high prices, and any­thing no qual­ity – there’s a lot of it com­ing into the mar­ket place be­cause peo­ple are of­fload­ing. As soon as you come off the qual­ity, dol­lars are pretty or­di­nary, still good, but a bit more or­di­nary, and that’s just due to sup­ply and de­mand.

“It’s more about the peo­ple who have in­vested in the ex­pen­sive fod­der that have been re­warded by the higher prices, be­cause they’ve been able to fin­ish their lambs bet­ter.

“It’s good to see that that’s oc­cur­ring be­cause they’ve put them­selves out there to buy that ex­pen­sive fod­der and they’re get­ting re­sults back.”

Mr Dono­van is the owner of pop­u­lar lamb shop ‘Lamb­tas­tic’ on Mel­bourne Street, Mul­wala, and said he is sus­tain­ing the price hike.

“We haven’t jacked up prices in the shop with the jacked up prices in the mar­ket place, we’ve been sus­tain­ing, mak­ing sure we can still sup­ply at a rea­son­able price to con­sumers,” he said.

Richard Wynne from Paull and Schol­lard main­tained that Corowa’s record prices are all about the qual­ity, with the av­er­age run of the norm last year see­ing lambs be­ing sold for roughly $120 com­pared to 2018’s $160.

Be­low is a ta­ble com­par­ing the past two years, dis­play­ing some of Corowa’s top re­sults in se­lect months at the mar­ket:

Pas­toral­ist Lach­lan Gall hand feeds his sheep on his prop­erty at Lan­gawirra Sta­tion north of Bro­ken Hill, New South Wales, Mon­day Au­gust 20. With New South Wales 100% drought de­clared farm­ers are off load­ing their stock in record num­bers. Photo: AAP.

Paul and Schol­lard Auc­tion­eer Tim Robin­son says farm­ers have be­ing sell­ing their lambs for record prices in 2018.

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