The great strait highway

The great strait highway | Online Insights

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Feed availability plus favourable seasonal conditions are key drivers of interstate stock movements.

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Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, agriculture has continued largely uninterrupted, with interstate livestock movement given the green light to persist.

Many producers who got the summer or autumn breaks were able to capitalise on optimistic markets and secure stock from interstate. One region taking advantage of this was Tasmania with livestock regularly crossing Bass Strait.

The first six months of 2020 has already surpassed last year's total with more than 11,000 sheep making the journey to the mainland from Tas. Victoria was the top customer of Tas sheep with more than 63,000 head bought through AuctionsPlus in the past five years and a total of 10,996 head shipped to Vic via online sales in 2019.

Feed availability plus favourable seasonal conditions are key drivers of interstate stock movements. During 2019, where many parts of NSW, Vic and South Australia recorded consecutive months with under 30mm of rain, savvy Tasmanian buyers bought from as far as Queensland.

In 2020, following atypical rainfall patterns in the Apple Isle, NSW and Vic producers have turned to Tasmania for stock.

The welcomed lift in rain has seen demand drive and maintain a rising price trend. Sheep prices have been hitting records, most recently Border Leicester/Merino scanned-in-lamb ewes from Bordertown, SA, making $476.

Record breaking prices can however deter some buyers seeking to secure similar stock at a more feasible rate. As a result, some buyers looked to Tas where prices for equivalent stock categories were lower.

Buyers pay on average $103 less for first-cross ewes in Tas where they average $204, compared to $307 in SA. There is also a distinct price difference between Merino ewes with an average of $145 in Tas compared with upwards of $228 across the water - an $83 gap.

When buying stock from Tasmania, the journey must be considered from both performance and financial perspectives.

Page Transport, a livestock freight service with transit facilities at both ends of the Bass Strait works with vendors in Tas to ensure stock are equipped on farm to then tackle the journey to Vic. Page Transport's Geoff Page said the entire process is "heavily regulated, particularly in terms of animal welfare" with every animal being examined to ensure their capacity to make the journey.

From Tas, livestock freight starts at $55/head. A door-to-door journey of 150 head will cost a buyer $6000 with State Governments offering a rebate which sees almost $2000 deducted from the total cost.

With the current market, incorporating the travel cost does not exceed the record-breaking mainland prices, making the purchase of Tas stock a viable option for restockers.

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