FARMERS have been left holding on to lambs as abattoirs focus on processing mutton.
And these farmers are now having to not only hold onto lambs longer on dwindling pastures but are also having to shear them at an added cost.
Dandaragan farmer Duncan Glasfurd said he had been forced to hold onto 3000 crossbred lambs.
"Usually we sell to Fletcher International, but at the moment they seem to be favouring processing of mutton as they are having issues selling lamb at their end," Mr Glasfurd said.
"They are usually our biggest buyer so we have a lot left over this year."
According to Mr Glasfurd the live export situation was also affecting the supply of lamb on the domestic market but he was hoping more boats over the next few weeks would clear some of the supply.
He said his lambs were in good condition and ready to go but it was just a matter of finding a buyer.
"We aren't really happy with the export price but if things continue as they are we will have to consider it," Mr Glasfurd said.
As an added cost, the Glasfurds have also had to pay more than $5 a head to have their lambs shorn.
"If we could have avoided shearing we would have but as it's the end of the season the grass seeds were starting to affect them," he said.
"The wool isn't worth a lot so shearing them actually cost us money."
Max Hurst, Cataby, was also struggling to get any bookings for his lambs and said he would have to consider shearing them over the next few weeks.
According to Mr Hurst, Fletcher International, who he normally dealt with, was favouring mutton because it made better returns on them at the moment.
He also said with a lot of people currently selling ewes there were quite a lot on the market.
"We have never faced this problem before, generally we can get rid of most of them this time of year," Mr Hurst said.
He was worried not only about the cost of shearing, but also about the cost of hanging on to them over the drier months.
"There isn't a lot of money in shearing them at the moment," Mr Hurst said.
Fletcher International WA general manager Greg Cross, said while they had upped production of mutton recently they were facing a very different situation to previous years.
"The lamb season is likely to come on a bit later this year," he said.
"Historically it comes on around October or November but this year it will probably be around a month later."
Mr Cross said everything depended on the season and the markets but they would be looking into processing more lambs over the next few months.
WAMMCO chief executive officer Coll MacRury said they were still processing lambs as normal.
He said more than 65 per cent of their kill was lambs but he had heard other processors were focusing on mutton.
"There is a better margin on mutton at the moment but we are sitting about where we usually sit this time of year and we are doing more lambs than anyone at the moment," Mr MacRury said.