THERE will be good opportunity for buyers to secure top quality ewes, with the prices at most off shears sales unlikely to reach the lofty record-breaking levels of last year.
That is the general consensus among livestock agents as South Australian off shears sales hit top gear this week.
There are 20,000 ewes on offer at Jamestown today, with Elders Jamestown agent Shannon Jaeschke saying some sheep were being sold earlier than normal due to conditions drying off in the past two to three weeks.
"We're seeing more middle aged breeding sheep on the market, 3.5-year-olds and 4.5-year-olds, from the likes of the West Coast," he said.
"Going forward, I think breeding sheep numbers will drop off because they're simply not there."
Mr Jaeschke said price expectations had been scaled back as the season progressed, saying top end young ewes could make $250 to $270.
"Earlier on, there was some thought among people that young ewes would sell for $300 plus with the way the season was shaping up and the lack of numbers, but current conditions are tightening up a lot of areas and there's not many areas for ewes to go into," he said.
Mr Jaeschke was expecting a similar yarding in the October feature ewe market, but only 10,000 to 15,000 at the feature wether lamb sale in November.
At Pinnaroo tomorrow, a yarding of 4500 to 5000 is expected through Elders and Landmark, followed by 5000 ewes and lambs offered through Pinkerton Palm Hamlyn & Steen.
Elders Lameroo agent Jarryd Finch said sheep would be exceptional and there would be good demand for young ewes and older breeding ewes, but buyer numbers might bring prices back slightly.
"If everything was green and everyone had had rain in the past six weeks I'd be confident that we're going to blow the wheels off it, but there's still a fair bit of country that's pretty dry so that pulls a few potential buyers out," he said.
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Mr Finch said support from South East buyers could potentially fill the void left by some Western Vic and NSW absentees.
"That's a big factor at the moment - we're not sure who we're going to get there," he said.
Mr Finch expects top quality 1.5-year-olds to make $250 to $280 and 5.5-year-olds to make $180 plus, with a run of 5.5-year-olds making $202 at Murray Bridge a fortnight ago.
Landmark Lameroo agent Simon Aldridge expects strong sales at Pinnaroo and Lameroo on October 11, with Lameroo building to a yarding of 2000 to 3000 more than last year.
"It's one of those years where it's going to be affordable to buy that top end ewe without making crazy money," he said.
"I don't think we'll see massive prices. Young ewes and the best breeding ewes should sell well. The real task will be on the secondary breeding ewes."
At Keith on October 18, Elders Keith branch manager Steven Doecke expects "similar rates to last year", where 12 pens went past the $300 mark for 1.5-year-olds and many runs of 5.5-year-olds made $170 to $190.
"We're not in a bad area in terms of the season but appreciate that people have spent a lot of money on grain and hay for the past 12 months to keep the stock they've got," he said.
It's one of those years where it's going to be affordable to buy that top end ewe without making crazy money.
Mr Doecke said a yarding of 12,000 ewes was expected, slightly down on last year's 13,400.
"There was a couple of vendors selling early due to the season and that early mutton price also provoked a bit of early season selling," he said.
"The stock are in similar condition to last year and we're finding that year on year the quality is getting better because tougher seasons mean classing is harder."
Saleyard records from last year included $296 paid for young ewes at Murray Bridge, $318 at Pinnaroo, $274 at Bordertown, $295 at Lameroo and a state record $346 at Keith.
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