First-cross ewe prices back to a more tenable level

Kristen Frost
By Kristen Frost
Updated January 18 2022 - 1:32am, first published 1:00am
First-cross ewes prices level out with more predicted to hit the market

Prices for first-cross ewes may have dipped to a more tenable level of late, but industry experts are predicting the prices are not something producers should get used to.

Wagga Wagga Nutrien Ag Solutions livestock manager James Croker said compared to the extreme highs of last September, prices have made their way to a more "reasonable" level.

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And he said it is on the back of a larger number of ewes available.

"There has been a correction and I think it's simply because there are more ewes out there," Mr Croker said.

"I think there is going to be a lot more first-cross ewes come onto the market so there will be a bit more of a selection there that will bring the price back from its peak.

"It has probably already brought the price back to where it is commercially realistic for a lot of people."

He said there were signs of an increase in first-cross ewe numbers 12-months ago and now recent sales are demonstrating this such as Forbes where they yarded a lot more ewes than they would have in the last four years.

"You only had to look at how hot the demand was and how difficult it was to source Border Leicester rams that a lot of people were making plans to go back into breeding first-cross ewes," Mr Croker said.

"The big peak in the price back in September came from those blokes that wanted to join early.

"They had already got rid of a good percentage of suckers and were getting phenomenal prices.

"Back at that stage they were looking at getting $10 plus per kilo, and the mutton job was at its peak.

"They had the cash in their pockets spending it. They saw the ewes that they wanted to buy and they just brought them."

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But Bendigo Nutrien Ag Solutions livestock manager Richard Leitch believes it isn't a big correction, and the numbers aren't out there yet.

"What you will find with first-cross ewes, it depends on the time of the year," he said.

"You will get a correction at certain times of the year because all of a sudden you don't have the demand for them.

"During the period prior to November, because everybody around here joins in November and so do a lot of other places, they are trying to source their ewes in September and October.

"Once they have their ewes they drop out of the market."

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The industry, he said, is all supply and demand and he can't see numbers in the industry building up anytime soon.

"Numbers in Australia are very hard to build up because we don't get five good seasons in a row and ewes aren't like pigs where they have eight of them," Mr Leitch said.

"This industry will stay very good for quite a long time.....and you need ewes to produce lambs.

"I think you will see, come September, October, first-cross ewes will be back up making $400 to $500."

You only had to look at how hot the demand was and how difficult it was to source Border Leicester rams that a lot of people were making plans to go back into breeding first-cross ewes

- James Croker, Nutrien Ag Solutions, Wagga Wagga

Mr Croker confirmed potentially, in September and October, prices for first-cross ewes will be dearer than where they are now, but whether it gets to the heights it did last spring remains unknown.

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"It will be interesting to see.....the best line of the ewes in Forbes recently made $450 or more and you have to remember they are only 10 to 11-month-old ewe lambs.

"I think sales in couple of weeks at Barellan and Narrandera, where producers will be selling the lead of their ewe lambs, that will be interesting to see what levels they get to."

On the online platform AuctionsPlus last week, first-cross ewe lambs had a total offering of 8031 head, with prices ranging between $135-$381 per head, to average $242/head - up $40 on the week prior.

A highlight for the category included 300 future breeder Border Leicester/Merino lambs from Boorowa, NSW, which returned $352/head - selling for $50 over their reserve price.

The hotly contested April/May drop ewes were October shorn and weighed 54.4kg live weight (lwt).

According to anecdotal evidence, quality of first-cross ewes continues to be above average - reflecting the season and responsiveness of producers.

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Kristen Frost

Kristen Frost

National Sheep and Wool Writer

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