A supply 'collision' is occurring in Victorian sheep markets

A supply 'collision' is occurring in Victorian sheep markets


The jump in lamb numbers at saleyards this week has been attributed to an array of different reasons.


The jump in lamb numbers at saleyards this week has been attributed to an array of different reasons.

At Bendigo on Monday, a lack of decent follow-up rain and consequent fall in pasture quality drove a steep rise in sheep and lamb numbers at the saleyard.

While at Ballarat, the sucker season is really only just starting to tick over but numbers lifted as some producers sought to cash-in on current prices.

At the northern centre, concerns over a rapidly drying season, in addition to good prices, saw an influx of lambs and sheep to this week's prime pens.

In a surprisingly big yarding, the largest since last year, lamb numbers jumped by more than 40 per cent to nearly 27,000, up from 17,900 the week prior.

READ MORE: Mutton prices pushed higher

The same centre reported sheep numbers more than doubled to 14,000, up from just 5123 the week before.

The concern for producers was the declining season in the north, while southern producers were hedging their bets on the season and taking the money on offer.

Rodwells Bendigo livestock manager Nick Byrne said the yarding size was impacted by a "collision" of northern supply with southern stock.

"Normally the southern supply doesn't come until after the bulk of the northern lambs have been sold," Mr Byrne said.

"This year, southern producers are concerned about the way the season is turning out and are opting to take the good money that's on offer.

"Producers are worried that every mouthful of pasture eaten now might not come back."

Mr Byrne said demand from processors was "very keen".

"Processors are looking for lambs, we had 80 vendors across about 9000 lambs and sheep, so lot sizes were smaller," he said.

"Producers have done a lot of work to breed and finish their lambs."

Mr Byrne said restocker orders from southern areas put a strong floor in the market, paying up to nearly $200 a head for suitable lambs.

He said numbers of suitable lambs were small as most of the well-bred lambs were too heavy.

At Ballarat on Tuesday, the yarding of lambs lifted from 10,880 a week ago to 15,649, while sheep numbers rose from 4826 to 11,113.

TB White & Sons livestock agent Michael White said this week was the first time any good volume of suckers had been yarded.

Mr White said Ballarat was only just starting the sucker run and overall the yarding was "probably a little bit fresher" than the northern centre.

"Today there wasn't the opportunity for restockers to buy good second-cross lambs," he said.

"There were a lot of Merino-cross lambs today, and that's not ideal."

Mr White said sheep also sold extremely well, particularly light sheep.

He said the "kick" in numbers was due to people taking advantage of the price per kilogram on offer at the moment.

"There were lambs there that were a little bit immature and people would normally have given them another two or three weeks, but they were being cautious," he said.

He said there were a lot of sheep being shorn and then sold two or three weeks off-shears.

Mr White said he had been paying around $190 for lambs to go "out to the paddock".

"We want something that's ready to go, in forward condition," he said.

Mr White said it was unknown what future numbers would look like with lambing percentages down around 10pc, "which is quite a few over the region".

"We'll see numbers increase in the next two or three weeks," he said.

"But it won't be as pressurised as last year when it came in dry and people had to get rid of lamb.

"It will be a bit more even without the big spike of last year."

Elders Warracknabeal branch manager Aaron Zwar said the centre was reaching the end of its sucker season.

Mr Zwar said they expected another sale in a fortnight after this week's offering.

"If you've got a lamb that is 14 to 15-weeks-old and you can get $180 to $220 for it, it's a long time keeping it to 28 to 35kg later on," he said.

"Our lambs are yielding very well up here with the season we have had.

"We've never seen it so good over the hooks or through the yards, quality-wise.

"Most farmers around this area want to have a cash flow at this time of year and the opportunity to sell a few suckers at a $200 average is pretty good going."

Price-wise, Meat & Livestock Australia's National Livestock Reporting Service (NLRS) reported values at Bendigo and Ballarat saw only small price movements on the previous week.

At Bendigo, the NLRS reported that the best heavy young lambs sold at similar price levels, and there was just modest price corrections of $3 to $5 across most of the trade weights.

NLRS reported averages of 770-800 cents a kilogram carcase weight consistently across most weights and grades.

In the mutton pens, the market was quoted firm to dearer, with two northern processors driving competition on the best heavy sheep.

Most sheep averaged between 570-650c/kg.

At Ballarat, the NLRS reported the general run of new season young trade weight lambs sold from $180 to $214, to average 795c/kg.

Heavy Merino sheep at Ballarat averaged 610c/kg.


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