FIRST cross ewe demand intensified at the Bendigo Premier Exclusive Breeders Sale yesterday, with 1.5 year-olds making up to $446 and ewe lambs reaching $400.
But agents are expecting prices to go higher in future sales as disappointed bidders are forced to either keep old ewes on for another year or increase their purchase price expectations to secure ewe replacements. The Bendigo private agents will offer another 1274 first cross ewes and lambs tomorrow.
Out of a total yarding of 13,300 in the joint Elders-Nutrien sale yesterday, including 4200 1.5 year-old ewes and hoggets, and 9100 lambs, the 1.5 year-olds averaged $402 and the ewe lambs about $358. Most vendors were paid about $60-$100 more, and up to about $140 more for select lines, than last year.
Repeat buyers dominated bidding for the 1.5 year-old lines, but the depth of the demand in the joint sale led to the first 14 pens of the 15-18 month-old ewes making $402-plus. It was 29 pens into the 1.5 year-old run before buyers were unwilling to pay over $400, with these ewes ranging from $338-$446 and only six pens making less than $400.
Nutrien livestock manager Richard Leitch said it is the second year the sale was interface with AuctionsPlus and the ewes in this sale averaged about 10kgs heavier than last year.
“I thought it was terrific, it probably met our expectations after Corowa, we thought our ewes would be $400-plus, and $446 is quite a bit more than a little bit, all our vendors are rapt with that.”
He said the middle run of the ewe lambs making $350-$380 was exceptional. The sale driven by the strength of the mutton market and the current lamb prices, he said, and the demand for replacement ewes is not being satisfied.
“There were people here today that bid on sheep and walked away empty, so future sales, they will be dearer again.”
Check out Murray Arnel’s livestream of the sale here.
Scanned first cross ewes sold for up to $476 in South Australia earlier this year, but the $446 paid for 150 May 2019 drop September shorn ewes weighing 73.6kg lwt from J.H. Hay and Son, at Kamarooka, is a record for unjoined ewes at Bendigo and possibly for the state.
Elders client Andy Hay said his previous best price at Bendigo was $333 last year. He estimated his three lines of 1.5 year-old ewes sold yesterday averaged about $441, about $138 higher than his 2019 average. His second pen of 142 1.5 year-olds sold for $438, his thirds made $398 and he sold ewe lambs for $365.
“It was an outstanding sale, the most outstanding yarding that has ever been in this sale and Friday will beat it.
“I think Friday’s top sale might beat it, but not the strength of this sale right through, there were hardly any pens of 1.5 year-olds under $400.”
Mr Hay has already bought Merino ewes for $330 at Jerilderie to breed his next first cross lambs.
The buyer of the Hay ewes, Rob Sands from Caniambo near Shepparton, said he has bought them before.
“They are very good sheep – just big strong sheep and trouble-free.”
“I expected to pay over $400 because an old ewe is making good money and normally it costs an old ewe plus a lamb buy a new replacement as a rule of thumb, so I didn’t like going that high, but I knew we were going to have to pay over $400 for good ones.”
As a full-time hospital administrator, Mr Sands said he found it difficult to get to many sales and he estimated he paid $10 more to secure the 150 replacement ewes he wanted and for a neat single truck load. He sold lambs for $160-$200 and heavy cast for aged ewes for $220.
“The old ewe price is putting a floor in it and pushing the young ewe price up as well – it has probably put $40-$50 into it this year – you’ve never seen anything like that..”
Violet Town lamb producer John Hawkes paid $420 (183) and $432 (194) for two lines of 1.5 year-old non-mulesed ewes from Elders client Golden Wattle with his agent Shelby Howard, Charles Stewart Dove, Colac. Mr Hawkes expected to pay around $400 for the ewes which he has had before.
He said the Golden Wattle ewes have “a lot of lambs” and he expected a gross lamb return of $270/ewe at current prices, but joked he couldn’t think of a reason to justify his purchases.
“But I’ve got to think of a story before I go home to my wife.”
He sold all his lambs for just under $200 this year and hasn’t sold any old ewes yet.
“They are going to have to do another round,” Mr Hawkes said.
“In my opinion, they are making pretty much what they always have – it’s your old ewe plus your lamb.
“They might be $20 over that, but what’s $20 out of $400?”
Ewe lambs sell to $400
Demand for the top run of ewe lambs was similarly intense, with most pens over 40kg liveweight making $290-$400. Later in the sale bidders, especially those intending to join later next autumn, also paid more than $300 for a some sub-40kg lwt lines. Most ewe lambs under 40kgs sold from $208-$304.
Nutrien sold the top-priced line of 174 April-May 2020 drop ewe lambs from J.M. and P.J. Darker from Boort to repeat buyer Mark and Tiger Powell from Windermere, with their T.B. White and Sons agent Phil McCunnie. The mid-September shorn lambs weighed 56.4kg.
It was Mr Darker’s first time in the Elders-Nutrien sale and his previous best price for ewe lambs was $342 last year.
“That was way over what I expected – there hasn’t been too many ewe lambs sold, but I was hoping for around $340-$350.”
His second line of 125 ewe lambs weighing 53.1kg made $392, also to a Ballarat buyer.
“That was the best sale.”
Mr Darker said the lambs have had plenty of feed this year from weaning on, running on irrigated lucerne, stubble and hay.
Prices and ewe quality show industry direction
Elders Bendigo livestock manager Nigel Starick said the sale result was “amazing, unbelievable.”
“It just shows the confidence in the red meat industry doesn’t it?
“There are a lot of people out there rebuilding flocks and just trying to get their numbers back up and it is reflective of where the physical and prime lamb markets are, with your dollars per head on ewes and lambs” he said.
“And even with the wool job where it is, you could easily get $400 return on good Merino ewe, a good trade lamb and the wool cut this year.”
Mr Starick said most ewes and ewe lambs went to repeat buyers. He said $400 was an amazing price for lambs.
“But it shows where the industry is heading – the genetics are out there, people are feeding stock better and they are getting those ewe lambs up and ready to be joined, and you are getting an extra year, so they will pay a better rate.”
Mr Starick said buyers looking for ewe lambs for a later joining went deeper into light lambs because of the good seasonal pasture conditions.
“I think the Gippslanders might have bought a bit heavier lamb this year, because they can buy them because the opportunity was there.
“They will get them up to 50kg or better by February-March next year.”