On the Wallaby, November 18

IN FRONT: David Everist says border Leicester ram breeders have been the major winners in the drive to breed better ewes from large-framed Merinos.
IN FRONT: David Everist says border Leicester ram breeders have been the major winners in the drive to breed better ewes from large-framed Merinos.

The staggering prices being paid for first cross ewes surely demonstrates that producers believe that prime lamb prices will be buoyant in coming years.

At Naracoorte, $366 was shelled out for a line of outstanding ewes and at Bendigo $330 was paid for well-bred well grown ewes.

Eighty five per cent of the 18,000 first cross ewes yarded at Naracoorte sold at $300 and higher.

For decades, the first cross ewe has been the primary choice of prime lamb producers and an abundant supply of Merino ewes has filled market demand.

In the last decade there has been a gradual move to composite self-replacing ewes, but the first cross ewe has continued to hold sway.

Winners in the quest to breed better ewes from large-framed Merinos have been border Leicester ram breeders, with border and superborder rams selling at buoyant levels.

The changeover cost in replacing CFA ewes with young breeders is the challenge, and a factor that will drive some to self replacing flocks.

However, economics will dictate that many will continue to target prime lamb markets using terminal sires over Merino ewes.

Slightly lower return from the lamb, but a bonus in wool sales.  However, composite breeders will continue to systematically press their case.

WOOL ON THE UP

Wool prices continue to head skywards, and given that Australia produced 339 million kg of wool last year – compared with about a billion kilograms in the late 1980s – it would be safe to say that demand is outstripping supply.

The industry’s benchmark Eastern Market Indicator peaked at a record 1623¢/kg last week.

This represented an increase of 45¢/kg on the previous week, with fine microns achieving significantly better gains.

In the past year the EMI has risen 25 per cent, or 320¢/kg.

Fine wools are leading the way. At Melbourne sales, the market indicator has risen 753¢/kg since last November for 17 micron wool – a lift of about $1500 a bale. Very handy.