2020 has been unlike any year in living memory. After 2019 which saw growers faced with floods and bushfires at the bookends of the year respectively; and was the warmest and driest year on record.
2020 has opened with widespread rain across the Eastern States of Australia. The intense drought particularly impacted sheep and lamb growing regions of the Central West, North West Slopes and Plains, and South West Slopes and Plains of NSW, which saw record numbers of sheep and lambs offered online on AuctionsPlus. In addition to the rain, 2020 see’s growers faced with a totally different challenge in the form of Coronavirus COVID-19. COVID-19 has hit every continent across the global and is seen as the potential trigger to a global recession. Economies are taking a battering and governments are locking down whole regions and state boarders, as the world struggles to stem outbreaks of the virus. Below is analysis of the Crossbred Store Lamb market online on AuctionsPlus for 2020.
Driven by premiums in the market, there is a rising trend of growers setting up on-farm feedlots. With money to be made and growers learning from the drought, integrating a feedlot and finishing lambs into their enterprises is becoming the norm. There is an abundance of information available between feed lotting field days, expert advice and online social media groups.
Listings online on AuctionsPlus have shifted significantly, traditionally the store lamb numbers slow during in the Autumn and Winter months, to then rise into the Spring. However, 2020 has seen 230,000 crossbred store lambs offered online, a 19% rise on 2019.
At a regional level, South West Victoria has seen the largest growth, with 42,000 head offered, 160% growth on 2019. While the Southern Tablelands, Central West and Monaro regions of NSW have all seen growth of 95%, 36% and 27% respectively. After the drought and widespread rain in the Northern regions of NSW listings have fallen by 50% in the Northern Tablelands and 52% in the North West Slopes and Plains of NSW.
A combination of record prices and market uncertainty has seen growers happy to ‘take the money and run’, driving record listings. The current average price for Crossbred Store Lambs, as of March 2020 sits at $172. In 2019 the market reached a peak in June at $163; while 2018 and 2017 the peaks were November ($117) and April ($130). With widespread rain throughout NSW, the state has becoming a force in the market. Aug 19’ drop 44kg mixed sex composite lambs from Grassdale, VIC in mid-March sold for $212/head sold to a buyer in the Riverina of NSW; while Sept/Oct 19’, 41kg 2ndX Poll Dorset wether lambs from Dirranbandi, QLD at the end of March sold for $190/head to a buyer in the Central West of NSW.
37% of store lambs offered online on AuctionsPlus from Jan-March 2020 have sold to buyers in the Central West and Riverina of NSW, a rise of 2% for both regions compared to the same period in 2019. While Northern VIC and Lower South East of South Australia has seen a drop in number of head purchased of 3% each.
While the lamb market is in a strong position, more and more businesses are standing down employee’s or even shutting their doors due to COVID-19. Leading to uncertainty of where livestock markets will head short term. However, in the medium to long term the need to feed a growing population should quell fears. The sheep flock is at a 104 year low and the cattle herd a 25 year low, seeing prices remaining high domestically. The lack of protein as a result of the African Swine Fever should see demand for Australian meat in a favourable position.