Merino lambs make an entrance

Merino lambs now a valuable asset due to genetic advancement

Markets
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Genetic advancement has seen Merino lambs exceed producers' expectations and projections.

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Genetic advancement, in particular quick growth rates, has seen the Merino lamb evolve into a valuable asset for producers.

Genetic advancement, in particular quick growth rates, has seen the Merino lamb evolve into a valuable asset for producers.

In the past month sheep and lamb market prices have made a complete rebound, trading at levels higher than this time last year.

Hitting those markets in larger quantities are Merino lambs, exhibiting the breed's genetic advancement, in particular accelerated growth rates.

Livestock Development Manager for Nutrien Ag Solutions South East Region, Ron Rutledge, said the Merino lamb has evolved to the point it has now become a valuable asset to sheep producers.

"It was only four or five years ago the Merino lamb was a very hard commodity to trade and it was a bit of a secondary product," Mr Rutledge said

"Now, the earlier maturing lamb has provided a great resource to a woolgrower to be able to get their lambs off far earlier than they normally would in the past."

And a lot of that has to do with how producers select their rams, he said.

"We are seeing a significant amount of research done in people's ram buying requirements to select for a high yielding, but quick maturing lamb that they can get off in quick time," Mr Rutledge said.

"This gives ewes a chance to get back into relatively good condition for conception again and not enduring long periods of lambs just sitting in paddocks waiting for them to grow."

He said quick growing Merino lambs are exceeding people's expectations and projections and are providing great outcomes with the high-end volume of Merino lambs returning $170.

"The seconds and thirds are trading at about $145 to $155, so in retrospect, the secondary lambs of the Merino content are right up there with the crossbred focus," Mr Rutledge said.

"People can now enjoy that sort of money straight off the ewe for a Merino lamb quite easily."

According to Mecardo reports, the NSW Merino lamb indicator has enjoyed the recent market rally as much as any other lamb category with the indicator lifting 27pc in the last two months, currently sitting at 768cents per kilogram, carcase weight.

And to buy Merino wether lambs on AuctionsPlus last week in the 30-35kg lwt range, you'd be looking at around $125 per head, but there were reports of well-bred second and third lamb drafts fetching $140 to $150 per head.

According to Mr Rutledge, while tops are are heading straight to slaughter to fill processor demands, a popular option for second lambs is backgrounding.

"Merino lambs have a two-fold advantage of growing wool as well," he said.

"Producers can background those lambs over the summer period, turn them into the autumn to late March, when they will extract a decent wool clip.

"They then can put them back into their containment yard programs through to May to define those winter markets."

He said if the lambs continue to go on a rising plain, producing weights up to 30 plus kilos, with a wool portion added and prices staying similar to where they are, there is up to a $200 return on the cards.

"The templates are there from an investment point of view, there is a lot of positivity there," he said.

But backgrounding the Merino lamb not only helps spread the supply and hit the market when there is a shortage of lambs, it is crucial to the sheepmeat industry when targeting different markets.

According to Mr Rutledge, the lighter end of the lambs are a continuous trade into middle eastern markets, but because of the genetic gains and the ability of people to breed a different type of Merino lamb, the industry is experiencing new market opportunities with high yielding Merino lambs entering restaurant trades.

"We have learnt very quickly in Australia to understand the symbolism of the religious festivals and those religious festivals have a big bearing on where the spikes of our markets take place," Mr Rutledge said.

"In correlation, we see a big upside in Merino lambs for the procurement of those festivals."

But he said heavy, plain-bodied Merino lambs now have an opportunity to enter high-end restaurants in the United States and other avenues that has not been seen before.

"Merino lambs have a lower fat content and a very different flavour and we are seeing some really big market gains of the heavy Merino lamb which we haven't seen before," he said.

"We have been very reliant on the middle east with our light carcase lambs, but we are now seeing a different area of the market and it is quite simply due to genetic gains."

Livestock Development Manager for Nutrien Ag Solutions South East Region, Ron Rutledge.

Livestock Development Manager for Nutrien Ag Solutions South East Region, Ron Rutledge.

The story Merino lambs make an entrance first appeared on Farm Online.

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