AS sucker lambs begin to trickle into SA saleyards, some producers are enjoying top returns, but as lamb supply and demand uncertainty rises, livestock agents are concerned a traditional 'spring flush' of new-season lambs might not eventuate.
SA Livestock Exchange saleyard manager Andrew Lepley said the sheep industry could face a "double whack" of a lack of numbers and quality in coming months.
"At Dublin, a lot of suckers from the Eyre Peninsula have arrived, but there will be a delay of suckers coming through from other areas because producers may try to increase weights," he said.
"We could have 10,000 suckers yarded in mid-September, but there may not be the traditional numbers to cause a spring flush."
RELATED READING:Elliston on-property circuit sale expands
Landmark Jamestown agent Don Cullen said 35-kilogram liveweight suckers sold to an "improver" at Jamestown market last week made $155.
"When sucker lambs began trading at Jamestown this year, everyone was optimistic about prices because of a potential lack of numbers, but we have not seen the demand rise yet," he said.
Mr Cullen said major processors that created increased competition at saleyards were operating at one shift a day rather than two.
"They do not need numbers at this stage so whether demand and prices hold up is anyone's guess," he said.
Gomersal producer Tony Brooks sold 200 April-drop Merino/White Suffolk sucker lambs at Dublin saleyard last week to $182.
He said the paddock-run lambs, averaging 55kglwt, were in "great condition".
"I sold about three weeks later than I have in the past because I thought the market was going to hold, but it did not," he said.
"I am still really pleased with the price because the market is changing a lot."
Pinkerton Palm Hamlyn & Steen agent Richard Harvie, Naracoorte, said sucker lambs would arrive in September, peaking in late October to mid-November.
"Lambs are about 5kg heavier this year," he said.
"But in the Naracoorte area, we believe lamb markings are down about 15 per cent to 20pc because of hot weather at joining."
The suckers arriving are on the lighter end of the scale, but we expect more in coming weeks.
Landmark Murray Bridge agent Kevin Keller said the Murray Mallee area was about three weeks behind in marketing its sucker lambs.
"Weights are not there yet and since the rain, feed has become available so they will retain the lambs for longer," he said. "The suckers arriving are on the lighter end of the scale, but we expect more in coming weeks.
"But lambing percentages are down so larger numbers might not arrive."
BM Livestock's Budgie Schiller said supplementary-fed sucker lambs from Eudunda made $200-$240 at Dublin recently.
"But then lighter, paddock-run lambs also out of Eudunda made $146 at Dublin and very lightweight lambs that sold privately made $135," he said.
"I expect numbers at saleyards to increase soon though, because feed is running out - they cannot hang onto lambs much longer."
- Start the day with all the big news in agriculture. Click here to sign up to receive our daily Stock Journal newsletter.