SHEEP and lamb numbers heading to the Eastern States have risen as buyers look to WA to source sheep stocks.
The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) reported that sheep and lambs transported east through the Ceduna checkpoint rose to a total 263,400 in the 10 months, ending October 31.
With two months of the year remaining, the total has already surpassed the 2016 total of 230,600 sheep and lambs which crossed the border.
These numbers were higher than in recent years, but still much lower than in 2010 when 1,016,562 and in 2011, when 417,223 went east.
DPIRD senior development officer Mandy Curnow said numbers had risen since June.
August was of particular note, when 4800 lambs were sent east, which then rose to 23,400 in September and 57,600 in October.
She said overall adult sheep numbers heading east remained fairly static although there was a slight decline between August and September from 12,500 to 12,400, and then a further 13 per cent drop in October to 10,800.
Ms Curnow said prices being offered in the east, by either processors or restockers, were substantially higher in compari- son to WA which had driven the movement of sheep east.
“There also may be lighter lambs being sent from WA in areas where the season has not been strong, for finishing or restocking over east in regions where they have had good seasonal conditions,” Ms Curnow said.
“The number of sheep and lambs sent east makes up a very small proportion of the total turnoff for WA, particularly in adult sheep.”
Despite the rise in numbers heading across the border, the animals represented a small portion of the overall sheep and lambs sold in WA during the year.
Landmark Katanning livestock agent Tom Bowen said about 20,000 head of crossbred lambs had gone east in the year to date, to one buyer operating a South Australian feedlot and there was more.
“Local sales have been extremely strong,” Mr Bowen said.
“About 90 per cent of sales have stayed local.
“But early in the season a lot went east.”
Mr Bowen said the attraction of WA was all about price and numbers.
“Their (Eastern States) mutton is $1 a kilogram more in the east,” he said.
Mr Bowen said it might cost about $20 head to transport across the border but that cost would be made up by the time the animals were ready for sale.
He said Eastern States buyers liked to source stock directly from the farm because it did away with the stress on animals being carted to the markets and then reloaded and transported.
“It’s really about animal welfare – what’s best for the stock,” Mr Bowen said.
He said the majority of the stock heading east would end up in Victoria – a journey which could take as long as five days to complete.
Elders Muchea livestock agent Dean Hubbard said the number of sheep and lambs crossing the border this year (263,400) could be broken down to about 147,000 ewes and 116,000 lambs.
He said the total number was up from 230,000 head in 2016 and 85,000 in 2015.
“We are going to be close to the 300,000 head mark to the east for this calendar year,” Mr Hubbard said.
“It’s all due to the season and the way it started.
“It was dry in a big part of WA early in the season and producers didn’t think they would be able to carry them through.”
Mr Hubbard said a lot of the lambs were in the 30-35kg liveweight category which was suitable for air freight.
He said producers were getting 260-270 cents a kilogram for them.
Mr Hubbard said Elders had been supplying through its network – and a large percentage of lambs, about 70pc, went to South Australian – while 90pc of ewes would end up in Victoria.
“Our product suited their certain weight ranges,” Mr Hubbard said.
“It was better economics for them to buy out of WA.”
Mr Hubbard said with the late rains across WA there could be a slow down in the numbers heading east, with producers holding onto their stock for shearing and fattening up in order to sell off next year.