In the shadows of record prime lamb prices is a concerning restocker market which has bottomed-out at less than $35 a head for sucker lambs.
A “dramatic” supply of store lambs from the Riverina has hit Victorian markets this week, more than six weeks ahead of the sucker flush usually experienced in spring.
A far cry from the record fat lamb prices experienced in the past month, Bendigo sheep sale made its own August record – yarding nearly 40,000 lambs and sheep, including 17,000 offloaded from drought-affected stations in the western Riverina.
It’s a sharp turn of events from last week when the Bendigo Livestock Exchange yarded just on 600 sucker lambs.
But this influx of supply, and subsequent fall in prices, brings unprecedented opportunity for Victorian producers, Elders livestock operations manager Ron Rutledge said.
“We are seeing an exit of livestock that is traditionally seen in September and October – the numbers coming out is dramatic for the month of August,” Mr Rutledge said.
However, the opportunities for Victorian producers may be premature, with the lamb market’s supply kicking before pastures have entered spring growth.
Finding supplementary feed would be a challenge with Victoria’s excess grain and hay supply heading north of the border to drought-affected regions.
But the destocking is expected to continue with the Riverina now deemed in drought by the NSW Department of Primary Industries.
Mr Rutledge said conditions had deteriorated significantly in the past six weeks, with southern NSW clients in “dire situations”, receiving less than 50 millimetres of rain for the year.
“People north of the Murray are concentrating on their ewe-flock base only at this stage,” he said.
“The exiting will be of the secondary lambs but with very low lamb marking rates, the surplus stock numbers won’t be excessive.
“The market supply is operating six weeks in advance. Once we get through to October, when Victorians are in a position to buy stock, supply won’t be there.”
Nearly half Monday’s yarding at Bendigo was predominantly crossbred, April-May drop, from drought-affected properties forced to destock.
Absorbing the sell-off were buyers from south east South Australia, Wimmera and irrigation regions.