Dry forces top lamb sell-off

FIRST-HAND experience with drought ensures Southern Downs rural producers can sympathise as their northern and western counterparts battle dry weather, feed shortages and offload an influx of stock on already subdued markets.

This week more than 4800 prime lambs and sheep were offered through Warwick's regular Wednesday sale.

Drawn from north and western properties, which missed out on a summer wet season, the mix of Merinos and crossbred meat sheep arrived to be sold through Queensland's last remaining weekly sheep auction.

While some producers outwardly expressed their compassion, inwardly they worried about how any sustained increase in numbers would affect the reactive local sheep and prime lamb markets.

Prices are definitely being influenced by condition and type and those less quality cattle are making significantly less money.

But experienced auctioneers including Elders agent George McVeigh said the increase in numbers and type had an upside.

"Warwick is the only selling centre left in the state," he said.

"The simple fact is the more variety we have on offer here, the greater the chance we have of attracting more buyers.

"The more buyers we have, the better it is for the market."

On Wednesday prices remained firm for prime lambs. They eased however for younger, lighter lambs.

Prices were termed "reasonable" by agents for ewes and wethers which were varied in quality.

For cattle, it was a similar story.

Although numbers remained steady at the regular Tuesday sale, prices reflected the pressure on the broader market as other yardings across the State increased and prices retracted in response.

Local cattle buyer Pat McMahon said he wasn't holding his breath waiting for a market improvement.

While he said much of the local region had enjoyed a late, but effective start to the season, prices would continue to be impacted by dry conditions over much of Queensland.

Speaking after Tuesday's regular cattle sale at Warwick, Mr McMahon said prices for poorer quality and poorer condition livestock had come back.

"Prices are definitely being influenced by condition and type and those less quality cattle are making significantly less money," he said.

"Unfortunately, a large percentage of cattle being offered at this week's sale fell into that category."

He said it was unlikely prices would recover, until the stream of cattle from drought-affected areas eased.

"It is too late in many cases for many western and northern areas to expect wet-season rain so it could be a while before they are able to stop de-stocking."

The upside was that many local feedlots were now full to capacity for the first time in years, he said.

"The downside is many of these cattle are poorer quality and grain prices are also very strong, so margins are still slim," Mr McMahon said.

"We have seen higher feed prices though, but the price of feeder cattle has come back so there are some elements helping margins.

"Longer term the drier conditions across the state may result in a rise in the price for finished cattle.

"It will just depend on supply."



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