The big dry: Stock-into-crops for Southern NSW?

There’s been bumper sales at Narrandera, Collingullie, Hay, and West Wyalong – with reports many sheep had stayed local – indicating the strategy of stock-into-crops was likely at play.
There’s been bumper sales at Narrandera, Collingullie, Hay, and West Wyalong – with reports many sheep had stayed local – indicating the strategy of stock-into-crops was likely at play.

THE strength of Merino sales in the state’s south, combined with damaging frost and heat, indicates sheep are being snapped up as insurance against a poor NSW crop, according to southern agents. 

There’s been bumper sales at Narrandera, Collingullie, Hay, and West Wyalong – with reports many sheep had stayed local – indicating the strategy of stock-into-crops was likely at play. 

“I’ve got no doubt it’s happening,” said James Tierney, Riverina Livestock, Wagga Wagga. “It’s basically insurance, the same old analogy between livestock and cropping: with livestock you might not have as big of a win at times – although it has been great lately – but at least you’ll always have something to sell.

“You’d think it wouldn’t take a lot of working out from those with a bit of experience to get a few sheep in.

“The only thing I’d say is, it would obviously be more difficult for those starting with sheep from scratch. Having the right infrastructure and the funding available to buy big amounts of sheep in the current market would be pretty hard.”

As reported by The Land’s Dubbo correspondent Mark Griggs this week, sheep breeders, particularly mixed-farmers whose crops may have been frost affected or not going to make it, turned to Merinos at the 15,000 head yarding West Wyalong District Sheep Breeders Association sale.

Elders auctioneer Greg Roberts, West Wyalong, said he thought the sale was at least $20 above his expectation.

“There are people thinking of putting stock into crops, but there is a big shortage of quality Merino ewes and lambing percentages last year were low north of here due to the wet conditions and floods, so today was there chance to gain quality, and they did.

At Hay last week, Murray Arnel reported a buying field dominated by southern restockers bid keenly for a large display of Merino breeders sheep at the annual Hay September sale last Friday.

Offering some 56,000 head in annoying dusty to highlight the extremely tight grazing conditions spanning western NSW, prices achieved for young 2016-drop ewe lines exceeded the expectations of some, with 20 lots sold at prices for $200 a head or better before hitting a sale high, $258 a head.

Nathan Everingham, of Nathan Everingham and Co, Finley, said access to irrigation meant the stock-into-crop trend wasn’t as likely in his region. 

“That said, we certainly have had clients looking to take advantage of the drop in prices – pure croppers who are starting to get into sheep,” he said. “But it’s not to do with the dry weather.”

Jim Saunderson, Elders Gundagai, said despite kind weather in July and August, a lack of an early-spring follow up had rendered winter rain useless. 

“For us to get a spring we’ve got to get rain in September, and we just haven’t,” he said. “If we get rain in the next two weeks some of our lower country might be okay.”

Story, The Land.