THE country’s depleted ewe flock has seen prices paid for breeding ewes near $300, with agents forecasting the supply scarcity to hit unseen “extremes” this spring.
The start of breeding ewe sales kicked-off in southern NSW this month, with price peaks notably up on last year, while averages remain on par.
Historically high lamb and mutton prices, matched with favourable seasonal conditions and low grain prices has resulted in big buys ups of breeding ewes down the eastern seaboard.
On Friday, Pinnaroo Off Shears Sheep Sale jumped in South Australia jumped 34 per cent on last year’s top price to $268, paid for 216 April/May-2015 drop ewes, Kamora/Netley Park blood.
Riverina Livestock Agents auctioneer James Tierney said the Temora sale, which offered 6000 2015-drop ewes, attracted extremely high demand, and reached this month’s highest paid price for breeding ewes at $292.
The top price was paid for 200 first-cross ewes, May-June 2015-drop and July shorn, offered by the Golders, Temora.
“Some of these extreme prices look to be exactly that, extreme,” Mr Tierney said.
“(Breeder sales) are backing up what is happening with the strength of the lamb and mutton prices this year so we expect prices will hold strong until the season dictates otherwise and I don’t see happening this calendar year.
“We’re going to see it become very hard to source ewes with the spring we are going into.”
At Narrandera, first-cross ewes fetched $266, which Landmark livestock agent Greg Corbett said was buoyed by the prospects of pasture growth and market confidence.
“There is so much feed and confidence around which is driving the market and pushing this shortage of breeding sheep,” Mr Corbett said.
“Last year was so dry, Victorian restockers didn’t operate at all in the Riverina sales.
“Providing we have a good season, which we are, (Victorians) are coming on board and adding extra competition which is particularly driving the Merino ewe job.”
Despite 50 millimetres of rain across two days preventing producers trucking in stock to the Hillston, NSW breeding sale last Monday, the sale topped at $262, paid for young Merino ewes.
The 7750 yarding included absentee lots which were sold by video and photo description.
“Due to the rain, some sheep couldn’t make it to the sale,” AuctionsPlus market operations Tom Rookyard said.
Online buyers were registered from Moree, Wagga, Walgett in NSW, Horsham, VIC, Kingston, SA and Stanthorpe and Longreach, Queensland, who purchased one third of the Hillston catalogue which received over 4,600 views.
The demand for breeding ewes has not been contained to just feature sales with AuctionsPlus’ regular Tuesday sheep sale topped by Woolaroo blood 15 to 17 month-old, 56 kilogram Merino ewes from Temora, which were unjoined selling for $275. The same vendor sold 2.5 year old full wool Woolaroo blood ewes, weighing 65kg, for $270.
In Hay this week, 38,000 sheep have been booked for Riverina Merino sheep breeders' sale, where Hay Merino Breeders president Graham Morphett Graham Morphett said prices were expected to exceed $260 for young Merino breeders.
Mr Morphett said extreme wet conditions could see numbers fall to as low as 30,000 due to transport logistics getting stock to market.
“Hay is a benchmark for Eastern Australian Merinos so I’d suspect we would beat the Hillston top price,” he said.
“It’s been said that Australia rode on the sheep back in the early days, and it is clearly happening again.
“It’s an exciting time to be a merino breeder because wool, lamb and sheep prices are all near records, and we are having one of the best seasons in 50 years.”