Following a sensational uptick in 2020 when producers across the eastern states entered serious restocking mode, in today's market, sheep buyers have become increasingly selective when purchasing breeding stock.
And a larger number of ewes heading into spring is likely to see the high prices of 2020-21 a thing of the past.
According to Teeah Bungey of AuctionsPlus, the average price for both young and proven Merino joined ewes has been trending downward across 2021 and 2022.
She said underlying fundamentals including age, weight, frame and joining breed add an additional layer to buyer purchasing considerations.
"With the restocking pace easing, underlying fundamentals, as well as joining status - scanned in lamb or station mated - have contributed to lowered clearance rates, as price disparities of vendor expectations not aligning with buyer price points increase," Ms Bungey said.
Nick Byrne of Nutrien Ag Solutions Bendigo said often at this time of the year, the heat goes out of the female market, with the last two years being an "exception to the rule".
"Two years ago, and to a lesser degree last year, it was an anomaly because you pretty well had all of NSW that were understocked so they were trying to get their hands on any stock - they needed to get sheep in the paddocks," Mr Byrne said.
"Now people are fully stocked, they have lambs on the ground - all their ewes are either joined or with lambs on them.
"Other outside influences may be a factor and every property is different, but the overarching factor as opposed to the last two years is we just haven't got as many people in the country looking to restock."
Damian Drum of Nutrien Ag Solutions St Arnaud, Vic, said a big factor is farming is generally "dearer".
"Especially cropping people - their costs have gone through the roof," Mr Drum said.
"When they have normally brought a mob of sheep, they are pulling out of that commitment."
And he predicts ewe prices won't be as big as we have seen them in recent years.
"It has to be cheaper in the spring, it can't be dearer," he said.
"It is the old adage of supply and demand. The store sheep could be $100 off from where it was."
James Croker of Nutrien Ag Solutions Wagga Wagga said it pays to remember some basic trends of the market.
"It probably reads that ewes are cheaper, but the only people that would be selling breeders or restocker sheep now is because they have to," Mr Croker said.
"Most people who are breeding for a specific sale or market they are going to sell them in the spring when everyone wants them.
"That is normally when the best selection and the best offering of quality stock is about.
"I'm not saying there is no quality around at the moment, but it is a lot scarcer than it is in the springtime which probably reflects a bit with the prices."
He also doesn't expect prices for ewes to be as high as the last two years on the back of increased numbers.
"I don't think that will necessarily be a bad thing - I think prices did get a bit overheated, paying up to $500 for a ewe is big money," he said.
Mr Croker said at Easter and before, there were a lot of opportunities to buy SIL ewes.
"They weren't making anywhere like they were this time last year," he said.
"That was because we didn't quite have the feed and there was still quite a bit of uncertainty with where the lamb and sheep market may or may not have been heading.
"I think it is still pretty positive, it's more from a logistics point of view creating issues with processing and also getting the product into containers and getting it overseas.
"The demand is there, it is just the logistics of getting it to them."
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