WAMMCO chief executive officer Des Griffiths said it was hard to get a handle on where lamb numbers are sitting at the moment.
³I think people are holding on and hoping for an early break,² he said. ³There are a lot of lambs out there, but they are store quality lambs and people are waiting for a rain to try and finish them off to get the best price they can.
³Poor quality lambs are difficult to market at the moment.
³The Middle East will take the poorer quality lambs but, as you would expect, they are not paying a lot for them.²
Mr Griffiths said the poor season had taken its toll on lot feeders.
³High pellet and grain prices means margins are tight at the moment for lot feeders,² he said.
³But I think there are producers out there who are committed to the industry and will stick with it to ride out this tough time.²
Mr Griffiths said there were still good quality lambs coming into WAMMCO¹s Katanning plant.
³Probably 25pc of the throughput at the moment are lambs that are dressing out over the 22kg mark,² he said.
³That is quite a high number given the seasonal conditions that producers have had to endure.²
Mr Griffiths said WAMMCO was trying to maintain prices for suppliers.
³We are paying $3.40/kg for lambs that are making $2.80 in the yards, so there is still a premium for selling direct to us.²
Mr Griffiths said the all important US market was shortening up with lambs from the east supplying most of that market.
³Our market share has been eroded, but the important thing is that demand is still there,² he said.
³Lamb prices across the world have come back a little due to the big numbers coming out of the east and also a large volume coming out of New Zealand at the moment.²
Mr Griffiths said if there was a general break across Australia pressure would be placed on lamb supply.
³While there will be a lot of lambs on the market in WA, there will also be competition coming from eastern states processors which should benefit producers who still have lambs to sell,² he said.
Elders commercial sheep manager Ian White said killing space for lamb was at a premium at the moment.
³Anyone feeding lambs without contracts are flirting with danger,² he said.
Mr White said there didn¹t appear to be many saleable sheep left in the system.
³Total yardings at Katanning in recent weeks have sat around the 12,000 mark, which is 8-10,000 down compared to the same time last year,² he said.
³Because of the lack of feed and high grain prices a large number of sheep have gone out of the system.
³The sheep market is going to be very interesting when the season does break across Australia.
³Rains in some parts of Victoria have already pushed mutton prices up over there and that is already having a flow on affect within the WA market.²
Landmark state livestock and wool manager Chris Medcalf said prime quality stock were a rare commodity at the moment.
³Anything that was in good order has been sold,² he said.
³Producers are now just sitting back and waiting for a rain before they make their next move.
³As soon as it does rain mated ewes are going to be a very valuable commodity.²