ALL the region’s lamb selling centres hit new local records this week – and even higher dollars could be on the horizon for two; while for the third, that’s now unlikely.
What they all have in common from here on in, though, is variability in quality – what one agent described as the difference between “boiled lollies and the best chocolate you can buy”.
The other theme was that, in an otherwise bleak year, the prices have been a ray of light beyond people’s “wildest dreams”.
Lamb prices in Tamworth topped out at $312/head, eclipsing the previous record of $292 from July 23.
In Inverell, the new record was $290/head, smashing the previous high of $270 in late July.
Guyra just edged over to a new top, after achieving $270/head – the last high was the previous sale’s $269.
Tamworth-based Burke & Smyth Stock & Station Agents director Simon Burke said the sheep industry as a whole was “in a very good place at the moment”.
It was “the same old thing: supply and demand”, as domestic and export consumption rose, while older lambs would soon “cut out”, with drastically fewer new-season lambs to replace them.
“You see the shortage now, but you wait for another month – there’ll be an extreme shortage of lambs. I’d think that they might even get dearer,” Mr Burke said.
Where will it end?
Inverell-based Lehman Stock & Property director Ben Lehman agreed prices would “stay pretty solid for a while” – and marvelled at the highs they kept hitting.
“When we were getting heavy lambs making $200, that was a big sale; everyone wondered where it was going to end,” he said.
In the Guyra and Armidale area, Armitage & Buckley managing director Victor Moar said the situation was “a lot different” due to a “much tighter selling season”.
“We’re a summer-autumn selling area, because our winter is harder than a lot of other places,” he said.
“Our lambs are all pretty much finished by the end of July. We don’t have too many people left who have heavy lambs; we’re at the tail-enders now.
“There are certainly 60kg lambs around making $230, $240, $250 – that sort of money, but it’s not comparable with a lot of other centres.”
He said that, in “the toughest year for lambing ewes I’ve ever seen”, anyone with a crop or some grain couldn’t justify feeding lambs.
Most had been happy to get $100 to $180 per head, “nothing to be sneezed at”.
“Most people here, their priority would have been to try to keep their lambing ewes going, and that in itself has been hard enough.”