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South Australian processor pays record $366 for first cross ewes

by Terry Sim, 09 November 2017

Lachie and Trevor James were happy with $366 for their Coolawang first cross ewes.

AUSTRALIA’S largest fully family-owned meat processor Thomas Foods International has paid a record price of $366 for 1.5 year-old first cross ewes at Naracoorte in South Australia today, in what was seen as a strong sign of confidence in the prime lamb industry.

The top-priced pen of 270 June-July 2016 drop Coolawang Pastoral Co ewes was sold by Elders and bought by TFI Rural, the farming arm of the South Australian-based TFI, to stock land near Millicent.

Elders auctioneer Tom Dennis said if buyers wanted to buy the top sheep at Naracoorte they had to be bidding in the $340-$366 band.

“We are in uncharted territory with the lamb job at the moment and $1.20 per kg dressed weight above the rate this time last year and we’re moving further away from that every day.

“A lot of people sold lambs for very good money and are very positive,” he said.

Mr Dennis said the first cross model relies upon producers buying a certain number of replacement ewes every year.

“They are probably working on a five year average for their buy price and a lot of fellows have been averaging from $145-$165 for their lambs and cast for age ewes are making $105-$120.”

Naracoorte Regional Livestock Exchange manager Richard James said the 19,819 ewes sold averaged $301.47, the first time the sale’s average had exceeded $300, and the $366 top price was a record for the saleyard.

“It’s unbelievable, isn’t it?”

Last year young first cross ewes sold to $312 at Naracoorte and to $332 at a Mt Pleasant sale. A line of 13-14 month-old South Australian first cross ewes scanned in-lamb to Poll Dorset and White Suffolk rams sold for $344 on AuctionsPlus in June and young in-lamb ewes made $330-plus at Wycheproof earlier this year. Lines of 1.5 year-old first cross ewes sold for up to $318 at Bendigo earlier this week and to $302 at Rodwell’s sale at Edenhope this morning, setting the stage for a strong sale at Naracoorte in the afternoon.

The first agency to sell at Naracoorte, Pinkerton Palm Hamlyn and Steen started strongly, with almost all of the first 20 pens making more than $300 and then setting the mark to beat when a client paid $348 for 160 June-July drop Deepwater Trust ewes.

TDC Penola continued the trend with its first 13 pens making from $302 and up to $334 for 141 July-August drop ewes from the JM Childs Family Trust. All Southern Australian Livestock’s lines made over $300, from $322 up to $324 for 103 April drop Lock-Haven ewes and for 128 April-May drop Brine ewes. Most of Landmark’s lines sold over $300, making from $290 up to $346 for 119 April-May drop ewes from SK Gericke.

The Elders-Naracoorte team led by auctioneer Tom Dennis sells the $366 Coolawang Pastoral Co ewes.

Elders’ line of ewes also started strong, with the agency’s first pen, 161 June-July drop Coolawang Pastoral Co ewes selling for $352 to an Elders Ballarat client, Guthrie Farms, before TFI buyer Matt Heinrich bought the next pen for $366. The first 27 Elders ewe lines sold from $296-$366.

Mr Heinrich said TFI Rural was expanding the prime lamb ewe flock near Millicent in South Australia.

He was not expecting to pay $366 for the Coolawang Pastoral Co ewes, and his average for the 1450 ewes he bought was in the low $300s.

“They were the best sheep there on the day and good sheep make good money,” he said of the Coolawang sheep.

“It is a reflection of what’s happening in the industry at the moment, with the way the lamb and mutton prices are.”

Mr Heinrich said the sheep were “an absolute credit” to the James family.

“They are superbly bred sheep with a lot of capacity and growth in them.”

The ewes will be used to produce export lambs for TFI, he said.

“They will go into the breeding flock at the Millicent properties.”

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