FIRST cross ewe lambs sold to $186 at the Naracoorte saleyards yesterday, with values affected by seasonal conditions and largely dependent on repeat demand and agency support.
Buyers came from Gippsland, Ballarat, the Western District and Timboon in Victoria, with strong local south-east South Australia support, but prices dipped for some middle and later runs of lighter lambs when agency support was mixed or lambs lacked condition.
The Naracoorte Regional Livestock Exchange said the 32,160 ewe lambs sold by agents averaged $108.73.
An interesting development was the presence of Dubbo-based processor Fletcher International Exports buying ewe lambs to go onto feed, after buying wether lambs at the Edenhope sale in the morning.
Some lines of lambs were already coming off in condition with the season and the sale lacked early momentum due to the quality and weight of the sheep offered earlier in the sale.
The top priced pen was a line of 150 April-May drop Altus Pastoral ewes sold by Southern Australia Livestock to Grundy Pastoral that weighed about 57kgs live. Lameroo first cross breeder Craig Altus said he averaged about $147 over 750 ewe lambs, nearly half his 2022 average. He said the sale was as expected.
SAL agent Matt McDonald said he thought the sale was going to be tougher.
“I didn’t think we were going to reach $170-$180 on those better sheep; I thought it would cut out at $150-$160.”
With the heaviest sheep not necessarily making the top prices, Mr McDonald said some buyers were looking for lines finished on grass rather than grain.
Elders was the only agent to list the liveweights of their ewe lines on the pen cards, after doing this for previous AuctionsPlus-interfaced sales. Elders Naracoorte manager and auctioneer Tom Dennis said this was done to assist purchasers, “but obviously Fletchers were active as well.”
Elders 50-65kg lines sold from $110 up to $172 for 178 of the 65kg Marmon Hills ewes that went to repeat buyer Peter Creek from Miller Whan and John. The 45-50kg lines generally made $94-$144, and lighter lines made $65-$98.
Top prices from the agents included: TDC – Telang Lamb and Beef 610@$142, 51@$140. Nutrien – Sparks Farming 313@$150,235@$144. SAL – McPiggery, 251@$178, 150@$170, 151@$170; Pitchford Pastoral, 200@$174. Elders – Marmon Hills, 178@$172, 246@$160; Gregurke and Partners 246@$160, 261@$162. PPH&S – Farmers Leap, 132@$164, 305@$146; Wheaton Farmers, 117@$160
PPH&S principal Robin Steen said the top sheep sold very well with repeat buyers being the main drivers at the top end of agents’ lines.
“If you didn’t do any homework (lacked agency support) you were in trouble, which you saw in some sales of the light sheep.
“Our top end was back a little bit from where we thought it might have been but our bottom end was probably stronger than anywhere in the sale – it could have been $10-$12 dearer along that bottom run than earlier in the sale,” he said.
“Overall I don’t think there were too many clients running around drinking bottles of champagne last night, but we are in the situation where if you get reasonable value for what you produce in a climate like this, we’re going alright.
“It’s the old adage: everybody’s got to have a turn, and people who have got a bit of feed and able to buy those little lambs and carry them through, have been able to buy them at pretty good value,” he said.
He said the Western District’s season is “cooked already” and that had happened in south-east South Australia six weeks ago.
Mr Steen said the quality of the yarding was very good for the seasonal conditions, although some lines were already showing the effects of the season.
Mr Dennis said expectations had been led by the recent higher Bendigo first cross sale result.
He said the Naracoorte sale was supported by repeat buyers buying their usual lines, albeit at reduced rates. But Victoria’s Western District has had a worst season than south-east South Australia – cold and wet then dry.
“They (the Victorians) didn’t have anywhere near the usual amount of steam – they certainly bought volumes of sheep, but with no sting.”
Mr Dennis said about 20 percent of the usual buyers missing from the sale and some bought at a reduced basis due to the seasonal conditions and financial constraints based on cashflows.
He said some operations have bought 1.5 year-old ewes this year rather than join ewe lambs in an adverse season based on the relative prices and the expected lower conception rate of ewe lambs compared to older ewes.
“One contrast was the Mallee sheep were 4-5 kilograms heavier and the local sheep were 4-5 kilograms lighter, because of the Autumn they had up there, it was very good for the February-March lambs.
“We weren’t is as good a position to take advantage of that locally because we were wet and cold and then dry,” he said.
“The Mallee sheep were as good as I’ve seen them in 20 years.”