ANOTHER day, another lamb price record… that’s almost how frequently the high prices are notching up across NSW at the moment.
On Tuesday a pen of 154 extra heavy lambs sold for $300.60 a head at Forbes prime market. That’s on the back of lambs sold at Wagga Wagga hitting $297.60 last Thursday.
The Forbes lambs sold to Thomas Foods International and were auctioned by Forbes Livestock and Agency Company for clients Graeme Spackman, “Bella”, Forbes.
Forbes Livestock agent Tim Mackay estimated the White Suffock/Merino lambs would have tipped the scales at about 40 kilograms (carcase weight) having been on grain for some time.
“Graeme Spackman also sold another pen of 238 similar lambs for $300.40 a head which is a great result,” Mr Mackay said.
At the same time, lighter lambs are also dearer across the state with the NSW Trade Lamb Indicator climbing to 789 cents a kilogram (carcase weight) in the past week. That’s now more than 200c/kg dearer than this time last year.
But with the market hitting levels never recorded before, some NSW agents have expressed concern as to where replacement stock will be sourced and at what price.
G.J. Hulm and Company agent Isaac Hill, Wagga Wagga, said he had never seen a sheep market like it, and predicted we’re about to hit more unseen territory with first-cross ewes at prices well above previous years.
“Season depending, I think there is certainly going to have to be a push north of the prices than what we have traditionally seen,” Mr Hill said.
“There is going to be a limited number available. A lot of the areas are in devastating drought and people have already sold off their ewes as lambs.”
Mr Hill said it’s “economics 101” and it’s all about the right choice for the producer right now.
“Right now the choice is to sell them as ewes at $200, but they have nobody to buy them, or sell them as prime lambs for $200 and they have got an infinite number of people to buy them,” he said.
“They are making their money now and not having to feed them. Restockers are not buying them because they don’t have the feed to carry them through.
“By September/October, if the season breaks, when the traditional first-cross ewe buyers have to step back into the market, I fear they might be significantly less on offer which will push the price up.”
With the mutton market making $170 plus for a cast-for age-ewe and $200 plus for decent suckers, he said it’s a matter of mathematics.
“People will have to draw a conclusion of what is viable and what is not viable - that will be your price point,” Mr Hill said.
Mr Hill said traditionally he buys his sheep in from Narrandera, Temora and further north but this year, going further north than that (Walgett, Coonamble, Gilgandra and Warren) they are all doing it incredibly tough.
“Farmers are not willing to hold them,” he said.
“By the same token, I’m trying to find people that will buy them down here that will then have to buy feed for them and they are not willing to.”
Mr Hill said it is most unpredictable situation that he can remember with uncertainty swirling the the industry.
“As a stock and station agent looking forward, you can say right here and now, the prices are good for lambs, bad for cattle, but what will next year bring?” he said.
“I have not a single clue with what we are going to be faced with.
“Traditionally what happens is general rains come, droughts break.
Mr Hill said processors would be the ones to dictate where the market goes in the short-term.