YESTERYEAR: While demand remains high for the sheep market, saleyards changes have left producers turning to other avenues.
YESTERYEAR: While demand remains high for the sheep market, saleyards changes have left producers turning to other avenues.

Drought continues to be the determiner of sheep sales

FOR Warwick sheep sale agents and producers, it is the ongoing fallout of drought, over coronavirus, that continues to plague their mind.

While saleyard changes and wool exports had an undeniable impact on the industry, many virus fluctuations were minor compared to the evolving demand for replacement sheep, according to McDougall and Sons agent Ross Ellis.

"The ripple effect from the drought remains," he said.

"The supply chain has shortened at this stage, we're towards the end of last season's lambs and haven't had autumn lambs come through yet."

"Locally, the restocking from the drought - that's what we have to catch up on."

Mr Ellis said he knew of local producers who had destocked up to 16,000 head through drought, and believed that widespread trend was behind the online market soaring.

Mutton is particularly strong for processing as is people buying that replacement sheep," he said.

"The cost of replacing is going through the roof."

Still, coronavirus did have its effect on sales, both positive and negative, depending on which side of production the farmer was on.

For domestic lamb, Mr Ellis said from the virus, a "seed could be sown" that would boost the market long term.

"It could help the industry to a level because more people are buying and cooking at home and they're buying the basic cuts restaurants don't usually," he said.

"After everything reopens, for a while they will embrace the fact they can go out but maybe they'll also re-embrace cooking at home and communicating with each other."

However, for wool, the industry was looking at unexpectedly slow winter.

"The wool industry is having problems because ports are not manned and the Chinese are Australia's biggest customers," he said.

"People aren't in stores buying products."

Still, Mr Ellis assured, it would take more than a double whammy of drought and coronavirus to knock down the industry's future.

"It's caused some disruption to marketing but we're flexible enough to supply direct, go through sale, or sell online," Mr Ellis said.

"Farmers are fairly forward thinkers - they have to be to survive."



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