Forbes cracks $300 lamb mark and supplies plenty of cheap lamb options

Terry Sim, August 1, 2018

Graeme Spackman and Randal Grayson with the $300.60 lambs at Forbes.

FORBES’ Central West Livestock Exchange is the first Australian saleyard to crack $300 for extra heavy slaughter lambs as demand remains strong from exporters.

At the saleyard yesterday, Forbes Livestock and Agency Co sold Spackman Farming’s 154 11-month White Suffolk-Merino cross lambs estimated at 41kg cwt for $300.60 to Thomas Foods International.

Southern Meats at Goulburn paid $300.40 for Spackman Farming’s second run of 137 lambs, estimated at 38kg cwt and TFI bought another 137 shorter-skin lambs of similar weight from the family for $299. Skins were valued at $5-$10.

It was a good day for the Spackman Family, with 866 lambs from their trading operation averaging $287.24 cents, including a run of trade weight lambs that sold for 900c/kg-plus, easily surpassing the

“It was a good day,” Graeme Spackman said.

“I knew we had a good lambs there and I said to my girls, I hope they make $250 and lo and behold they got there.

“But it’s not always about topping the market — I prefer to work on my averages.”

‘Elephants’ were loaded onto two B-doubles

The Spackman family’s $300-plus lambs at Forbes.

Last year the 5000 lambs marketed by the mixed farming operation averaged about $205. Mr Spackman said the record-priced lambs were bought from around Young and finished at Corinella south west of Forbes on a lucerne crop, plus ad lib access to hay, and a lick feeder mix of barley, lupins and pellet concentrate. He said the lambs presented well and gave credit to his shearer Ben Smith.

The Spackman’s main carrier Nick Thompson described the lambs as “elephants” after loading the 866 lambs over 12 decks. Mr Spackman said the first B-double truck loaded 469 lambs and 398 of the biggest were put on the second truck, with not much room left.

Forbes Livestock auctioneer Randal Grayson said the recent step down in Eastern States Trade Lamb Indicator was quality related, with quality trade lambs making 900c/kg-plus at Forbes.

According to the National Livestock Reporting Service, Forbes agents yarded 33,350 lambs yesterday, 1400 fewer than last week, but including 6150 mixed quality new season lambs.

But Mr Grayson said the number of new season lambs was not going to “fill the void” left by the drop off in old lambs.

“I just can’t see where they are going to come from.

“There is no weight in the new season lambs, even our better operators with a bit of irrigation to get them are not getting the weight into them, they are getting them off.

“The rest of the lambs are being weaned at a very low liveweight, down to 15kg and straight onto a feedlot, but they are slow and they’re dry.”

Processors still searching for lambs to fill coming “void”

Mr Grayson said processors are hoping that there will be a flush of new season lambs from somewhere.

“But they always rely on our area – Forbes, Wagga and even Dubbo — to get them through, but there is going to be a fair old gap this year.”

He believed prices would hold up for this year and into next year, with runs of scanned pregnant ewe lambs – Merinos and crossbreds – being sold in saleyards since the autumn due to the season.

“We’ve seen a lot of those future breeders go out the window – on a regular basis, not one-offs.

“We’re just seeing that second wave now because there is no hay or grain available as people panic and say ‘we’re not going to be able to get them through’… take the money while they are still in good condition,” he said.

“Most people have been trying to keep their twinner ewes, but the singles are gone and the twins will be next.”

Fellow Forbes Livestock director Tim Mackay said in the last 10 days, with cattle especially, but sheep also, producers are deciding to run out of options to buy feed and opting to sell breeding stock. He was concerned that the situation would affect future supply to processors.

“If you ever lose these abattoirs, generally they don’t open again.”

“Our whole genetic pool and (flock and herd) numbers are going to be decimated.”

Record prices but also opportunities for restockers

And despite the record lamb prices at Forbes, even the district best operators are taking less than $80 for light new season lambs, he said. The agency also sold several pens of lambs for under $15 yesterday.

“We haven’t done that for a long time,” Mr Grayson said.

“Yesterday’s (NLRS) report should have said there were plenty of lambs that went back to the paddock because the processors weren’t interested – at anywhere between $5 and $25 – and there pens of them – fresh Dorpers and light Merinos,” he said.

Mr Grayson said there were many opportunities for restockers to buy runs of secondary lambs available for $5-$55.

“Every week that goes by we are getting less of the Spackman-type lambs and more in the bottom end coming in.”

The NLRS said prices eased slightly at Forbes, with trade weights making from $155 to $215/head. Old light lambs averaged $132/head. Trade weights held firm to $3 easier, with prices making from $142 to $214/head. Heavy and extra heavy weights were firm to $3/head dearer. Heavy lambs up to 26kg sold from $196 to $248/head.

Those over 26kg sold from $240, with two lambs receiving a top price of $300.60/head. Carcase prices averaged from 814c to 897c/kg cwt.



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