'As good as it's ever been': Boom time for region’s sheep farmers shows no sign of slowing in 2018

CENTRAL and northern Victorian sheep farmers are enjoying one of the greatest boom periods in history, and some are predicting it could get even better.

Early year sales in Bendigo have not quite reached the pre-Christmas peak, but results have been solid enough to indicate that the upward trajectory in lamb and wool prices is showing no signs of slowing.

In November, ewes were sold to $330 a head at Bendigo – the highest price some senior agents had ever seen. Those ewes were sold by Raywood first-cross specialists James and Linda Cartwright.

Young ewes produced in Ravenswood also fetched close to $300 a head at the annual crossbred sheep sale.

Raywood firstcross specialists Linda and James Cartwright sold young ewes at $330 a head at the crossbred sale in late-2017. Picture: Murray Arnel

Raywood firstcross specialists Linda and James Cartwright sold young ewes at $330 a head at the crossbred sale in late-2017. Picture: Murray Arnel

McKean McGregor senior livestock agent Alex Collins said prices had been heading up for three or four years as producers tried to satisfy export demand.

“In the last few weeks before Christmas, we’re seeing levels that we haven’t seen before,” he said.

“Export is very strong, particularly in Middle East, traditional markets in the US, and in Asia, particularly China.

“For Australia to meet this demand, there’s only a certain amount of sheep we can produce.

“That supply is something that will build over the next five to 10 years.”

Andy Cole, of Raywood, sold ewe lambs at $280 a head in November. Picture: Murray Arnel

Andy Cole, of Raywood, sold ewe lambs at $280 a head in November. Picture: Murray Arnel

The need to expand flocks was another major driver behind the strong local crossbred sheep sales in late 2017.

Meat and Livestock Australia predicts the national flock will expand a further 2.5 per cent this year, with enhanced breeding efficiency a priority.

Lamb exports have hit record highs and mutton are up 11 per cent. MLA predicts there will be no significant change to international demand in 2018.

Marong Dorset breeder Don McKinnon said while there are peaks and troughs, it was hard to think of a better time in the industry.

“If farmers could ask for these prices, they would. It’s driven by demand and there’s certainly no oversupply at the moment,” he said.

“In the sheep industry – in both prime and wool – it’s as good as it’s ever been.

“There’s a huge demand for wool and lamb in China.”

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