Livestock numbers shake out in south west areas

Tightening feed conditions in the south west see livestock reach the market


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SELL-OFF: The south-west and western districts still selling off livestock as winter and slowing pasture growth kick in.

SELL-OFF: The south-west and western districts still selling off livestock as winter and slowing pasture growth kick in.

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Producers in the south west have been deciding what sock to carry through winter and what to shift.

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Feed and livestock prices are driving supply and demand for both sheep and cattle from south-western parts of the state.

The south-west and western districts have become the last area to see stock start to be sold as a result mainly of seasonal conditions.

East Gippsland, the north-east, the Riverina and northern areas have been selling off sheep and cattle for months, leaving numbers that producers in those areas can hold through winter.

EWE TURN: Data presented by AuctionPlus show the increase in turn off of Merino ewes this season compared to the past two years. Source AuctionsPlus.

EWE TURN: Data presented by AuctionPlus show the increase in turn off of Merino ewes this season compared to the past two years. Source AuctionsPlus.

Elders Mortlake livestock manager Bruce Redpath said "amazingly it's wet" through the western district.

"Cattle have started to tuck-up and the hay supply is very scarce and expensive and people have decided to put their cattle on the market," Mr Redpath said.

"It's typical western district weather, it's wet and we never see cattle do any good in the winter here."

He said cattle destined for Mortlake store sale this week came from across the districts.

"The cattle market hasn't altered a great deal but little cattle still look cheap," he said.

"Feeder cattle with weight are selling well.

"No rain in NSW has a huge impact.

"Until that area gets wet we won't see a rise in the market."

The change in the season and onset of winter conditions has also seen more sheep enter the market, particularly through AuctionsPlus.

"We have seen Merino ewes and ewe lamb volumes increase online from 2018 to 2019, not only in western Victoria, but across the country," AuctionsPlus market insights team operations manager Tom Rookyard said.

"No doubt the dry conditions are putting pressure on.

"Coupled with the price of wool and mutton and then add in store lambs and growers have some very tough decisions.

"Obviously the winter is a traditional period for growers to bunker down as they look ahead to spring."

Hamilton stock agent Guy Robertson said he had sold a number of drafts of Merino ewes, scanned-in-lamb (SIL) on AuctionsPlus in recent weeks.

"The prices for old ewes, rising six and rising seven-year-old-ewes was pretty good," Mr Robertson said

"All the SIL ewes were from people who wouldn't normally sell these sheep."

He said it had been a tough season with really slow pasture growth.

"Now we will get wet and cold and won't grow much feed until August," he said.

"Potentially looking to the future lamb prices should open in spring pretty well.

"So if we can get out of old ewes we can look after the young sheep with lambs."

JM Ellis livestock agent Michael McMeel has also sent a number of lines through AuctionsPlus.

Mr McMeel said one line had been a large Merino flock dispersal, where the ewes were SIL to terminal sires.

The stock were sold because of the seasonal conditions, but also because the vendor was going more into cattle.

He said the season was definitely improving.

"We've had good rain now, we just need some sunshine now, but winter has come and the next six to eight weeks will get us over the hump," he said.

Mr McMeel said there were few excess store animals left in the district.

Charles Stewart & Co agent Lachie Barclay had a vendor that sold composite ewe lambs on AuctionsPlus that sold "unbelievably well".

"We've had good rains now, but there isn't an abundance of feed, it's short and green," Mr Barclay said.

Producers were generally holding their Merino ewes because they could "see light at the end of the tunnel".

In 2019-20, agricultural export earnings were forecast to fall by 5 per cent to $45 billion, according to the latest Agricultural Commodities report released recently.

Peter Gooday, ABARES, said while seasonal conditions had improved, this was not expected to translate to an increase in the value of exports.

"The decline in export value is driven by a forecast 11pc fall in the value of livestock exports," Mr Gooday said.

"Turnoff and slaughter was high this year and producers will be looking to rebuild herds and flocks as seasonal conditions improve.

"Export earnings are forecast to decline for beef and veal, wool, lamb, mutton and live feeder cattle but strong demand is expected to help keep prices high."

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