FEBRUARY in the prime lamb industry is normally a month of stable supplies in saleyards.
However, for some unexplained reason, supplies sold through the major outlets this February have taken a nosedive to a point that throughput for the month has trailed last year’s figures by as much as 15 to 20 per cent over a catchment of 13 Victorian and interstate markets.
With the eastern states’ lamb slaughter for the financial year averaging 5.5 per cent higher than last year’s kill figure to this point in the season, many might say a larger portion of this summer’s supply has been consigned direct to the abattoirs, especially the heavy export classes where prices of 620-640c/kg are being touted through to until April.
TB White & Sons lamb auctioneer Gerard White, Ballarat, who sold heavy lambs to $230 a head on Tuesday, agrees more heavy lambs could be going direct as better results can be gained for the extra heavy weights than can be obtained in saleyards.
But Mr White said that’s not always the case as often there are the occasional spikes that can also surprise the market.
But this year with its dry weather and a lack of summer storms, supplies have been kept current as producers manage their dwindling feed reserves, he said.
“This week was possibly our heaviest and most consistent yarding this summer,” Mr White said.
“But across the whole of the Ballarat, yarding there has generally been fewer extra heavy lambs offered thus summer as the better results are being gained direct.”
Although Ballarat yarding numbers have been fairly stable during February, Mr White said the most concerning aspect for the future supply was that fewer second-buy purchases were being executed for re-sale later in the autumn and early winter.
Most of the district’s main lamb growers he said had been required to manage their first-buy lambs as best they could to conserve their feed conditions.
“The summer crops in our area and further to the south have run their race so, unless under irrigation, most operators have sold at least half of their first-buy lambs and many will hedge their remaining balance overtime in the market,” he said.
With March-April lambing soon to begin in the northern districts, this year’s higher kill figures also tend to suggest few of last year’s lamb drop have been retained as carryover.
Consequently yardings at Bendigo, Forbes, Wagga, Corowa, Dubbo, Swan Hill and Horsham are feeling the pinch, with limited opportunities for numbers to recover before spring.
The result of this month’s MLA and AWI wool and sheepmeat survey, which just closed, is vital in monitoring intentions for the remainder of the season.