Price disappoints at Katanning sale

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Bob GarnantCountryman
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At the Katanning June special sale last week, Wagin sheep producer Phil Blight and his son, Allan, were hoping for higher sheep prices to help counter increased input costs.

The Blight family offered 135 October-shorn 12-month-old wethers under the Primaries catalogue, well down on the numbers they offered last year.

"The big dry of 2010 affected our lambing per cent and the flock's progeny was at half the normal level," Mr Blight said.

"With this in mind and the increased costs of production, lower sheep and wool prices, I estimated we would have required $190 a head to break even with our Katanning sheep."

Instead, the Blights' wethers sold for $93/head, compared to $96/head for twice the size of their offering last year.

Mr Blight said with rising production costs and big swings in sheep and wool values it was time to consider better management strategies for their flock.

"With my son, Allan, finishing school and returning to the farm, we will be looking into taking up the Ewe Lifetime management program," he said.

"Sheep is a numbers game - every lamb needs to be counted."

While sheep and lamb prices have fallen back from the peaks over the past 12 months, the National Council of Wool Selling Brokers executive director Chris Wilcox said prices were still well above levels for most of the past 10 years.

He said data from Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) had trade lamb prices currently at 22 per cent below levels of June 2011.

"Merino lamb prices are 24 per cent lower," Mr Wilcox said. "The steady decline is not showing any signs of bottoming.

"Mutton prices have fallen by 30 per cent, although they have picked up a little recently.

"By comparison, wool prices are 23 per cent below levels of June 2011."

He said mutton prices, in particular, were very strong compared to historical levels which reflected the low numbers of adult sheep in Australia, in particular the low number of wethers.

He said growers should consider lifting lamb marking rates in their self-replacing Merino ewe flocks.

"An extra lamb is worth an extra $52 in profit," he said.

Mr Wilcox said producers who were interested in increasing the bottom line could refer to the Bred Well, Fed Well workshops funded by Australian Wool Innovation, MLA and CRC.

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