MOST cattle and sheep producers would be pleased with their returns in 2010; prices for just about all categories remained buoyant throughout the year, with only small periods of downturns.
After an indifferent start to the year with not much rain in most of South Australia, cattle quality was quite mixed at all saleyards, with only supplementary-fed yearlings the highlight.
But with the smaller numbers yarded, prices continued to rise into the winter months, because with many northern regions, Queensland and New South Wales receiving drought-breaking rains and stock being kept on-property, there was a lack of boxed beef being bandied around the southern states.
A very mild winter and some good rainfall in most of SA allowed cattle to be turned-off earlier than normal and led to consistent-number yardings and the splitting of Naracoorte and Mount Gambier prime markets some four weeks to six weeks ahead of normal.
Also, the better prices being paid for cows resulted in large yardings at Naracoorte from a wide range of areas, including the northern pastoral.
Drought conditions in Western Australia led to many cattle being trucked to SA mainly from the Kimberley region.
Tey Bros at Naracoorte has increased kill to more than 4000 head a week a boon for cattle producers as they obtain cattle from a wide range of areas, with pastoral-bred stock quite often seen in the holding paddocks.
Most good-quality vealers have been selling above $2 a kilogram, yearling steers and heifers generally $1.70-$2/kg, grown steers $1.65-$2/kg and cows $1.35-$1.60/kg with some reaching $1.70/kg in mid-winter.
The latter could be the reason for smaller cow yardings at Dublin, because at times there has been a 25c/kg price difference to the South East markets where there has been very strong SE and Victorian processor competition, with many sales above 3 cents/kg carcase weight.
Lamb producers have received solid prices for most of the year with the $6/kgcw mark reached regularly early in the year, with only a concerted effort by processors to reduce their prices in October-November, before prices once again increased.
This was because of many young lambs being turned off as trade weights after a mild winter and little wonder when $5.20-$5.50/kgcw was paid by the supermarkets during that period.
This has led to another scenario; of very few store and light lambs being offered, as would normally be seen in October-November, and selling to strong feeder and restocker activity.
Most young lambs are sporting woolly skins, now worth $18 to $23/skin, and many producers are reluctant to shear their drafts because of the much-improved prices paid this month, with $5/kgcw topped again.
There is also a distinct possibility that processors may struggle to obtain sufficient numbers in the new year, because it appears there are not that many lambs left in the paddocks.
This could also be another reason for some processors buying lambs to put out, or feed for slaughter in the early months of 2011.
Sheep prices have been enlightening it has finally dawned on everyone that there are not many sheep left for sale, with many producers opting for other commodities to earn a living.
Many thousands of sheep were trucked over from the west as the WA drought bit further, and having to pay above $200 for 1.5-year-old crossbred ewe lambs at Naracoorte's annual sale crossbred sale put them out of many producers' reach.
Most mutton sheep have been selling at $3.25-$4.50/kgcw, with many sales rising above $100 for Merino and crossbred ewes in the prime markets.
In all, a satisfying year for producers.
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