March was another very strong month for sheep and lambs offered exclusively through AuctionsPlus, with over 400,000 head offered for sale – registering a 73% clearance rate for the month. Widespread inland rain, especially through NSW, during the second half of the month tightened supplies considerably, as many producers looked towards planning for winter cropping programs, confident that pasture and feed supplies would be ample once the cooler conditions arrive.
The largest category for the month was Merino wether lambs, with 69,374 head offered through the online platform. With a clearance rate of 87% for the month, the balance between the buyers and sellers appeared to be consistent, with little change in the average price for the month, at $141/head – up 1% on February and steady on the corresponding period in 2020. One feature of the month was the larger lines, most in excellent conditions, coming out of the wide expanses of western NSW - with many sellers likely relieved to have sold early in the month, prior to the very heavy falls that created transport and logistics issues heading into Easter.
Very large numbers were also offered through the wide-ranging composite/other breed (63,629 head) and crossbred (44,816 head) lamb categories, with prices for the month averaging $207/head and $170/head, respectively. While rebuilding intentions were still very prevalent, both ewe lamb categories registered somewhat subdued clearance rates for the month. First cross ewe lambs, with 30,984 head offered, averaged a 64% clearance rate for March, with average prices back 7% on the previous month, at $238/head. Similarly, the clearance rate for the 16,119 head of Merino ewe lambs was at 57%, averaging $191/head. Validation of these clearance rates continues to indicate that the stand off between buyers and sellers is wider for ewe lambs than for other categories, with buyers unwilling to lift, while sellers face little pressure to reduce reserve levels.
Across the sheep lines, the largest category for the month was SIL Merino ewes, with 70,682 head offered – at a 69% clearance rate. With an additional 33% offered through March, compared to February, the average price only decreased 3%, to $259/head. Similarly, an increased number of SIL first cross ewes, up 80% for the month, at 20,395 head, contributed to the monthly average prices slipping back 5% from February to $316/head.
Across the other sheep categories, NSM Merino ewes and NSM Merino hoggets both averaged 9% lower for the month, at $205/head and $236/head, respectively. Shedding breed ewes averaged 5% higher for the month, at $315/head, with a 86% clearance rate for the 9,167 head offered.