FIRST cross ewe lambs sold to a record price of $438 despite COVID-19 lockdown conditions at the annual Naracoorte sale last Thursday.
With sale attendance restricted to agents, buyers and saleyard staff, Nutrien client Sparks Farming from Spalding topped the sale for the first time with 128 October shorn April-May drop ewe lambs that sold to repeat buyer R.D. & M.A Smith.
Sparks Farming spokesman Tyson Sparks said the 1420 ewes offered averaged $369 and weighed an average 52kgs. The top line of ewes was estimated to weigh about 65kgs.
Mr Sparks said the family was quietly optimistic the ewes would sell well after selling at Naracoorte for the past 15-20 years.
“We knew we had a good product and that the demand in the eastern states would pick the price up at the sale, but we weren’t expecting to top the market.”
The Sparks family’s Nutrien agent, Tom Allen, said the prices were higher than expected.
“We were hoping for our best sheep to make around $380-$400, with the bulk of our sheep probably $340-$360.”
Mr Allen said all the Sparks sheep went to repeat buyers.
Naracoorte Nutrien manager Richard Jennings said the heavier ewe lambs ready for joining and estimated at 55-65kgs, sold from $380-$430. The ewe lambs suitable for joining from February on next year and about 40kgs-plus in liveweight made from $320-$380. Apart from the top lines, he estimated the lambs tended to be lighter than last year.
“I thought we had a very good sale considering the COVID-19 lockdown.
“The better end of the ewes sold very well to repeat buyers.”
Demand for lighter ewe lambs was a bit subdued, he said, with restockers cautious about ewe lamb supply in 2021 and price levels.
“There was a fair few that went back to the paddock clearly, but it was playing on a few guys’ minds about the prices and where they would sit next year.
“But I think the 1.5 year-old prices will be fairly strong again next year because there will be a limited number.”
Mr Jennings said there were a few buyers from Victoria.
“The (attendance) numbers were severely restricted on previous sales.”
Naracoorte Regional Livestock Exchange manager Richard James said the 36,309 ewe lambs offered in the sale averaged $292 and sold to a centre record of $438. He said the official approval to hold the sale during the COVID-19 lockdown came through on Thursday and social distancing, face mask and restricted attendance conditions were implemented.
“It was just buyers, agents and staff working the yards – about 160 people all up.
“At the (1.5 year-old ewe) sale the week before we had about 300 people.”
Agents selling at the sale included Elders, Nutrien, Pinkerton Palm Hamlyn & Stein, Thomas de Garis & Clarkson and Southern Australian Livestock.