THIS has been an exciting time for the sheep industry, with saleyard records falling at a pace we could barely keep up with, and state records also being set three weeks in a row.
A national record for extra heavy lambs was reached last week, with bids at Griffith, NSW, reaching $345 - surpassing the previous best paid at Dubbo, NSW, in September by a single dollar.
The incredible price was paid for 82 Poll Dorset lambs from Noel and Jodie Hoskinson, Kikoira, NSW, estimated at 43 kilograms dressedweight.
While those outside the ag sector might think selling lambs at $345 gives you an express ticket to the rich list, it's always important to look at what has gone into producing such an exceptional pen of lambs in a difficult season.
It's important we remember that many graziers don't have lambs to sell.
Mr Hoskinson said the lambs were given a supplementary ration of oats after being shorn in mid-December, before being moved to a full ration at the end of January.
He estimated he was feeding out about 10 kilograms per head each week.
If there have been 17 weeks since the end of January, the Hoskinsons have fed out 170kg/head in oats in this time - equating to a total of about 14 tonnes. In a season like this one, that wouldn't have been cheap.
Like most market fluctuations, the sudden price spike is a result of supply and demand factors. In this case, it isn't so much about surging demand for sheepmeat, but rather a sharp tightening of lamb supplies in SA and along the east coast.
While sheep producers will no doubt be pleased to see their peers achieving impressive prices, it's important we remember that many graziers don't have lambs to sell, let alone the top quality crossbreds making $336 or the Merino lambs selling for $302 at Dublin last week.
The dip in SA sheep supply - particularly in the more northern agricultural areas - has been highlighted with the Jamestown auction scheduled for May 23 firstly being postponed to June 6, and then cancelled altogether. The next sale is set to be held in August.
Last year, Jamestown yarded a total of 28,500 sheep at its April, May and June sales, whereas this year, just 3700 head were sold at the selling complex - all in April.
With the state's pastoral areas still hanging out for rain, and restocking across the state likely to be a slow and expensive process, supply is set to be tight for quite some time.
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