As the flock rebuild continues to take place across the eastern states of Australia, 2020 continues to be the year for record prices.
The demand for breeding ewes has significantly outweighed available supplies, consequently setting multiple price records.
Scanned in lamb (SIL) first-cross ewes set a record back in July, selling for $476 per head, while more recently, Australian Whites with lambs at foot (LAF) sold for $493 per head.
Complementing the record ewe prices, shedding breed rams sold to exceptionally high prices and strong clearance rates throughout spring ram sales across the country.
The increased popularity in shedding sheep mainly comes back to their adaptability and aptitude in tough, drought prone country.
The lack of wool on these meat sheep also helps lower the cost of production, as they don't require shearing or crutching - a bonus given the current volatile wool market.
While shedding breeds were traditionally found in areas like the Central West and Western regions of New South Wales, they have more recently started expanding into all parts of the country.
The AuctionsPlus Market Insights (AMI) team has investigated data from 2016 to present, distinguishing selling trends and prices for shedding breed sheep - helping to identify the impact the 2020 season has had on the breed.
Online listings for shedding breeds, specifically focusing on joined articles, increased significantly in 2020, with 51,105 head listed, accounting for 17pc of all terminal breeds offered and up 5pc on 2019.
Darren Old, of B R C Agents, attributes the increased listings for the breed to 2020's favourable seasonal conditions, combined with producers looking to cash in on demand and the current market strength.
"Clients who would have normally sent their meat sheep to slaughter have been taking advantage of this demand, classing and offering their second drafts for sale," he said.
"While those with extra feed have been able to hang on to lambs for a little longer and market their sheep properly, with many looking to the box to do so, something previous seasons haven't allowed."
Clearance rates for shedding breed articles online has reached its highest average since 2016, sitting at 86pc, up from 63pc in 2019 - indicating the increased demand for the offering and a direct result of favourable seasonal conditions and producers looking to restock.
Ian Featherstone, Elders Broken Hill, has found himself looking to shedding breed articles for his clients, particularly those who are looking to re-stock.
"There is a bit of a mix behind purchasing decisions; traditional Merino breeders are starting to look into diversifying, as a result of the wool market, while others who were forced to downsize, or completely de-stock over the past four years have found themselves looking into alternative breeds," Mr Featherstone said.
"We initially looked to SIL or station mated articles so clients can get a quick return on investment, once the first drop of lambs are out of the way there is the flexibility to join to a ram of choice."
Like any commodity, increased demand brings increased prices. The large jump in average prices achieved for shedding breed ewes in 2020, with all categories recording an average price increase of over $100/head.
Joined ewes have jumped $127 per head, to average $296 per head, while ewes with LAF increased $133 per head, averaging $340 per head.
2020 has seen the Central West and western regions of NSW dominate online listings, with the two regions accounting for 55,172 head of the total online offerings.
While Central West NSW has also dominated online purchases, there has been a significant increase in shedding breed purchases from
Southern Queensland, at 27,700 head so far for 2020 - a jump of 15,270 head on last year's total.
Darren Old believes these increased purchases are a result of the Queensland exclusion fences seeing producers looking to Dorper's to start their livestock restocking process.
Looking ahead, the very tight supplies and favourable seasonal conditions across the eastern states indicate demand and the subsequent strong prices for the shedding breed will remain well into 2021.
"The numbers around don't outweigh the demand that's there, some clients are even talking about getting back into Damara's, the breed that everyone has more recently moved away from, but if they are an available option to help re-stocking, then we will look into it," Mr Featherstone said.