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Central West Queensland

Sheep, Wool & Goats

19 August, 2020

Merino ewe scanning generates price advantage

AuctionsPlus analysis has this week shown multiple/single pregnancy scanning of Merino ewes generated an average $23 per head price advantage over ewe lots with only wet/dry details.


The analysis was conducted in online sales over the past six months.

AuctionsPlus Commercial Manager of Digital Services, Tom Rookyard, said even when selling Merino ewes with just 10 per cent multiples and 90 per cent singles from January to July, there was a $14 per head premium for such lots over similar ewes marketed as only scanned-in-lamb (SIL).

Mr Rookyard said the severe deficit of breeding ewes across Australia would always put extreme pressure on the store sheep market after widespread rain.

“This is exactly what happened in the first months of 2020,” Mr Rookyard said, “and when key regions had drought-breaking rainfall there was a scramble to restock paddocks against a 116-year flock low.

“There was a 45 per cent growth in average prices from December 2019 when SIL Merino ewes were averaging $180 per head, to July 2020 where they were averaging $260 per head.

“Obviously there is an extra cost involved for the seller, sitting around an additional 60c/head. However that is negated when selling.”

Blackall sheep and wool producer, Ben Banks, said from a management perspective pregnancy scanning was the cheapest thing you could do with the ewe mob.

“You wouldn’t drench a sheep for less than 60 cents,” Mr Banks said. 

“Improving the fertility and productivity of your own flock is the most cost-effective way to boost your sheep numbers.”

Ben Banks and his wife Oona manage the 46,500 hectare family property, Rivington, west of Blackall
Ben Banks and his wife Oona manage the 46,500 hectare family property, Rivington, west of Blackall

For more than a decade the couple has also operated a contract pregnancy scanning business processing around 100,000 head of sheep a year.

Mr Banks said the information gathered at scanning opened many more options to producers.

“Central Western Queensland is a harsh pastoral environment, but by identifying pregnancy status we can tailor our nutrition and husbandry management programs so we end up marking more lambs,” Mr Banks said.

“Producers can draft ewes into mobs of multiple or single bearing ewes and cull infertile animals to improve flock efficiency and ensure feed is utilised by the most productive animals.

“In the Central West, producers can run their twin-bearing ewes in smaller mobs on their best paddocks to meet their extra nutritional requirements.

“Alternatively, if you opt to sell a SIL ewe they generally make around $20 a head more than a station-mated female.”

Mr Banks said his equipment would detect a lamb from 42 days after the removal of rams, however the optimal time for scanning for single/twin status was between 42 and 90 days after joining.

Mr Banks said this required a tight joining period which didn’t suit a lot of Central West producers.

“After 100 days it becomes harder to differentiate between single and multiple foetuses,” Mr Banks said. “However, due to the sheer scale of properties and paddocks out here, a tight six-week joining period for mobs sometimes isn’t realistic.”

McCarron Cullinane Chudleigh Livestock Agent, Adam Chudleigh, of Forbes, New South Wales, said he and his buyers always gained more confidence when buying SIL ewes with singles and multiples nominated.

“Buying nominated multiples gives our clients confidence they will get the lambs on the ground, providing them with many options to sell,” Mr Chudleigh said.

“Clients can sell into the store market to make a quick return or to feed through to hit the fat market. If vendors are willing to spend the extra money, they deserve to receive additional value due to their management practices.”

Tom Rookyard said reflecting on market results was the best indicator to dictate future buyer behaviour and predict exactly what buyers were after.

“It is clear more information provided by the vendor offers an added level of confidence to the buyer, increasing the likelihood of higher returns,” Mr Rookyard said.

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