SOLID store sucker lamb prices and dwindling paddock feed have served as the catalyst for some sheep producers to sell suckers earlier than usual this season and help safeguard breeder numbers.
Eyre Peninsula sheep producers were some of the first to "bite the bullet" and sell store lambs.
Platinum Ag livestock agent Henry Zwar, Wudinna, said lambs were being sold at much lighter weights than usual, as parts of the region struggle to have adequate feed available.
"We are starting to see suckers shift out of the EP to help retain breeder numbers," he said.
"Waiting to sell lambs to attempt to value-add $10 down the track with an extra feed cost will only cause some producers to have to sell a line of young ewes to cover the cost."
BM Livestock's Budgie Schiller, Eudunda, said enquiries from clients in some parts of the Mid North to sell lambs earlier had increased in recent weeks.
"I expect most producers will offer their bigger lines of lambs in the coming weeks whether they are at target weights or not," he said.
"There is no point putting feed into lambs that will not make much better prices if they wait."
Further north, Elders Jamestown agent Scott Fleetwood said many producers were keen to take advantage of the $7.50 a kilogram sucker lamb on-hooks price that was on offer.
"Most are saying that is good enough," he said.
"But I also have clients who are of the thought that if they can sell a sucker at four months old and get good money - there is not much point hanging onto them."
SA Livestock Exchange auctioneer Glenn Keast said store lambs had begun to arrive at the Dublin market in the past few weeks but most were being sold on AuctionsPlus.
"About 3000 store lambs from a Mallee client at Parrakie were recently sold online for about $132-$136 a head," he said.
"We also had some Streaky Bay lambs in very store condition sold at Dublin last week," he said.
Mr Keast expected heavier sucker lambs would arrive in the next couple of weeks, but if conditions across the Mid North remained dry, there was a chance of more store lambs.
In the Upper South East, Elders Coonalpyn's Bryan Biddle said some store lambs from the area would hit the market in the next couple of weeks.
"There is not a lot on the horizon but the main run of lambs will arrive in September," he said.
"But, a lot of people are trying to tap into the store sucker market because it is worth more a kilogram than the trade market."
FAILED FEED FORCES LAMBS TO MARKET
AFTER another month passes without sufficient rainfall, Punthari sheep producer Richard Horstmann has sold his sucker lambs more than a month earlier than in past seasons.
Entering a fourth year of drought-like conditions, Mr Horstmann had "little choice" but to sell more than 400 April-drop sucker lambs at the SA Livestock Exchange at Dublin on Tuesday.
"Now the lambs have gone, I can hold onto the 450 breeders I have managed to keep," Mr Horstmann said.
"I generally wait until the last week of August to sell suckers but I thought I might as well sell because who knows what the next few months will bring?" he said.
Just two weeks ago, Mr Horstmann made the decision to sell lambs early but the "good prices made it less risky".
"Even at lighter weights we made $165 a head for 66 lambs, that was probably a better return than if we wait because we will get penalised for lambs that were meant for export," he said.
"We averaged $128/h across the lot."
Eudunda sheep producer Stephen Waldhuter runs about 1200 Merino ewes and sold 100 March-drop lambs at Dublin on Tuesday, with 56 making $186.
"The lambs did very well to grow out considering the season - they reached about 51 kilograms to 45kg liveweight," Mr Waldhuter said.
"We focus on the domestic and export market but with the export market being impacted by COVID-19 and the prices for suckers being pretty good, it is nice to not have to worry about reaching those heavier weights with a lack of feed."
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