Jamie and Stuart Jenkin pick up the fleeces ready for packing on a hot day in their shearing shed at Ruby. M190117

Local shearer Brad Tobin sweats it out between Christmas and New Year, shearing sheep at Ruby, while most people were at the beach sunning themselves over the holiday break. m180117

This Border Leicester ewe was happy enough to get her woolly coat off on a hot day last week, but she might have been looking to put it back on again this week. M200117

THERE’S plenty of action and interest for local sheep cockies around the district at the moment as they prepare their prime lambs for sale and also organise shearing dates.
The first lamb sale of the New Year at Leongatha VLE Saleyards starts at 1pm today, Wednesday, January 4, but there have already been dozens of truckloads going direct to the abattoirs over the past few weeks.
And was first things first for Leongatha Landmark agent Stuart Jenkin last week as he spent the morning yarding up and drafting off prime lambs for his clients, ready to be trucked off to the butchers, before getting down to his own jobs.
And that involved helping with the shearing of his lambs and their Border Leicester ewe mothers on, you guessed it, the hottest couple of days of the summer so far.
Doing the back-breaking work of shearing the sheep in the heat, eased only slightly by his shearer’s sling and a small fan blowing hot air, was Brad Tobin.
And while the wool came away smoothly on the long blows from the shearer’s wide comb, lubricated by the slick lanolin, it’s still one of the toughest jobs going… and why there are fewer and fewer people prepared to do it.
But that’s another story.
For the time being, at least, the lamb producers still have a smile on their faces.
“The prime lamb prices are a bit cheaper than last year, especially with the big numbers that hit the market just before Christmas,” said Stuart last week, in between throwing fleeces up on to the classing table.
“But the lambs are weighing well so they’re bringing good prices, probably about the same as last year overall.
“The skin prices are up as well this year which is supporting the market.”
The word from out on the farms is that store lambs are also in big demand at the moment, driving up their prices, due to two factors – the amount of grass in the paddocks and the cost of store cattle, which is no place for the faint hearted at the moment.
So some people are opting to buy store lambs instead. It’s a numbers game.
The cattle, sheep and lamb sales at Leongatha this week, starting with the prime cattle today, Wednesday, January 4, should give us the first good indication of where prices are at in the New Year.
There has been millions of dollars of both cattle and lambs going direct to the abattoirs on contract over the past few weeks, but these market sales, including the first store cattle sale of the year on Thursday, January 5 at Leongatha VLE, will be closely watched.
At the butchers, lamb prices have steadied but at the quality end of the market, it’s still as much as $36.99 per kg for crumbed cutlets, making them a real delicacy.
But given you only get 16 cutlets from each lamb, it’s understandable.
Why not go for a succulent leg of lamb instead, at around $13 per kg, they represent good value, good eating and, better yet, there’s beautiful cold meat for the sandwiches. A nice change from the Christmas ham.
So, there’s lots going on for both sheep and cattle farmers at the moment – and if anything, a little too much feed in the paddocks… but it’s hard to get it absolutely perfect.