CHRISTMAS has come early for sheep producers with prices tipped to continue to rise over the coming months.
Shipping wether prices in particular have rallied significantly since February.
And according to Agricultural Connections Australia director Steve Meerwald the signs were pointing to a positive few months ahead.
"Prices have already increased significantly, and with the season going as dry as it has, there has been a reasonable number of sheep coming forward already," he said.
"My estimate is that numbers are likely to get pretty light on the ground over the coming months.
"So if demand stays where it is, it could mean there is more chance of prices going up than down."
Mr Meerwald said there seemed to be increased interest from overseas countries, including Bahrain, which boded well for farmers.
But he said it was hard to say, at this stage, if the Bahrain market would return to levels it had previous to the suspension in 2012.
"Bahrain was once a market for a significant number of sheep but they have been bringing a lot of chilled product in so if the Australian live sheep prices are too high, they will continue with the chilled imports," Mr Meerwald said.
"Over 12 months is a long time for Australia to be out of the market so it will really depend on what is driving the policies of the Bahraini Government and its import companies.
'While there is a preference for live animals it will depend a lot on price and if it goes up too much that demand will fall."
Westcoast Livestock agent Chris Hartley said there had already been a noticeable improvement in the price of shipping wethers over the last two months.
He said that was most likely due to a recent surge in demand and competition.
"A shortage of supply has had a bearing on that as well. There have been quite significant numbers already slaughtered," Mr Hartley said.
"But it has been a huge improvement which is good news."
Landmark agent Mark Warren said competition between exporters and the trade was helping prices along considerably.
"The young Merino wethers are selling very well on the boats, as well as over the hooks, so we have a situation where exporters and the trade are chasing the same thing," he said.
"Heavy sheep are getting a bit harder to find and the mutton market is also quite strong, which is good news.
"Big heavy wethers are attracting up to $90 but the average is probably around the $75 to $85 mark."
Mr Warren said sheep numbers could get tight if there was an early break to the season.
"If it is a little while before the season breaks we could still see a few more sheep coming onto the market, but having said that the numbers are definitely down on last year," he said.
Emanuel Exports managing director Graham Daws said the price rally for wethers was more of a reflection of shorter supply, rather than an increase in demand.
"This is business as usual for this time of year and we would expect it to be strong through until spring," he said.
"Then when numbers become available we will see prices start to move back a bit."
Mr Daws said numbers typically tightened up this time of year as farmers turned their focus to their cropping program.
"There is a shortage of numbers but if the price gets too high here, the Eastern States market will look a lot more attractive and the ships will move there, meaning the demand in WA will be less," he said.