Young Merino ewes are hot property, with a new saleyard record set at Pinnaroo on Friday.
But the season's highlight came online on Tuesday last week, when Tiller & Thompson, Balaklava, received a $350 bid - believed to be a state record for commercial Merino ewe hoggets.
The 225 July-shorn, MN3 status Moorundie-blood ewes, weighing 70.9 kilograms, were offered in the national sheep sale on AuctionsPlus and are now destined to breed first-cross ewes.
Spence Dix & Co Mallala agent Daniel Griffiths said being ahead of the off-shears sales, it was an unknown how much they would make, but he was rapt with the result.
"They keep getting better year on year," he said.
"They were always priced to sell, but we knew repeat buyers were on them again and we had a lot of interest from NSW chasing top-end ewes.
"We normally sell 650 to 700 surplus hoggets, but this year it was only 450, we are retaining a few more numbers so that made demand even stronger."
Mr Griffiths said it was a just reward for the outstanding line.
"They (Tiller & Thompson) have been on Moorundie blood for 40 to 50 years and are often competing against the stud operators," he said.
It is the fifth consecutive year that Kevin Francis, Wyruna, Western Flat, has bought the ewes, lifting his budget from the $331 he paid in 2019.
"I bought them online years ago but they belonged to someone else (bought off Tiller & Thompson)," Mr Francis said.
"I loved the sheep so set about trying to find where they came from and I've bought them ever since.
"They are outstanding, large-framed sheep which cut a lot of wool and the wool doesn't go green down here."
Mr Francis, who also bought another 225 Tiller & Thompson ewes for $349, joked that he had "gone mad".
"We always need breeders and I am pretty confident in the market with the way sheep numbers are down at the moment," he said.
Wyruna hit the headlines on AuctionsPlus about a month ago with their 1500 Border Leicester-Merino ewe lambs. The top line of April 2019-drops made $288.
"We have regular buyers on our ewe lambs so we must be doing something right," Mr Francis said.
Another Spence Dix & Co client, DS Barr Farms, Balaklava, also shone in the same AuctionsPlus sale, receiving $327 for 330 Lines Gum Hill and Nyowee-blood ewes.
Despite the Pinnaroo off-shears sale achieving a saleyard record price of $310, Nutrien's David Daniel said most sales had yet to "race off to lofty highs" seen in past seasons.
"Producers are receiving 20 per cent less for new-season lambs - so for those breeding fat lambs, that would be a big consideration to take in when securing further breeding ewes," he said.
"Despite some sales hitting high prices, buyer cautiousness has been noticed."
Pinkerton Palm Hamlyn & Steen auctioneer Josh Manser paced the pens at the PPHS offering at Pinnaroo that went to $304 and said young ewes fetched $10-$20 more than expected.
"The whole job was better than expected - uncertainty is everywhere at the moment, but most buyers were able to put that aside," he said.
"The young ewes sold accordingly, but I am really happy the sale cracked $300 a couple of times."
But producers are reassessing stock values off the back of falling wool, lamb and mutton prices, Nutrien Ag Solutions Jamestown agent Shannon Jaeschke said.
He said the impact from COVID-19 meant the export and wool processing sector had taken a hit and this had caused prices to ease, with the Jamestown feature ewe sale on Thursday last week reaching a top of $282.
"Producers are operating on what is on offer at sales, but probably not to the full extent they had in the past," he said.
"In the big scheme of things, the meat job is pretty good and wool prices will rise again."
Elders Lameroo/Pinnaroo branch manager Jarryd Finch said off-shears sales were in a "world of their own" and that was reflected with last week's saleyard record.
"The lamb market has changed, but breeder sale prices do not reflect it accurately. If producers want breeders, they will be active to secure them," he said.
RELATED READING: Pinnaroo saleyard record of $310 made
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