With rural roads across southern New South Wales soaked and boggy, organizing 15,000 sheep to arrive in time for one of the region’s biggest events has been a “logistical nightmare”.
- Wet weather meant sheep were brought to Hay more than a week before the Hay Annual September Sheep Sale
- Close to 15,000 sheep were kept in spare paddocks and on the local showgrounds
- The sale saw a high of $440 a head paid for Merino ewes
The Hay Annual September Sheep Sale is known for attracting some of the best-known genetic lines of Merino ewes from stations around the district and beyond.
This year, instead of sheep being trucked in a day or two before the sale, many arrived more than a week ago.
“We’ve had to bring the majority of the sheep in and stick them in paddocks around town,” said Elders branch manager Andrew Low.
“That’s been a bit of a logistic nightmare.”
About 15,000 sheep were walked through town into the saleyards yesterday, with agents working hard to draft them back into their lines in time for the sale.
Mr Low said with some stations north of Hay receiving up to 27 millimeters of rain this week, it was a good decision.
“[It was] definitely enough [rain] to not only stop a truck but bog it pretty well,” he said.
“So we’ve been pretty lucky to get as many into town as we have.”
Top price up to $40 a head
There were close to 20,000 sheep that went under the hammer in total, with a top price of $440 achieved for 400 Merino ewes from Greg and Helen Rogers of Yarto, Booligal.
It was the second year in a row that the Rogers topped the sale and although it didn’t reach last year’s record price of $512 a head, Mr Rogers said the result was well above expectations.
“I thought the challenge was for someone to get $400,” Mr Rogers said.
He said they knew last year’s exceptional sale would be tough to beat, with the market losing its record-breaking edge in the last 12 months.
“Last year, we all knew, was a very good day. You don’t have many of those,” Mr Rogers said.
“You hold onto those days, you put the account sales behind the toilet door so you have a look each morning.”
Hay, located more than 700 kilometers west of Sydney, usually experiences an arid climate.
But three wet seasons have seen it turn into an almost unrecognizable oasis, with plenty of green feed around.
“The country north of Hay is as good as it gets,” Mr Rogers said.
But he said, like everyone else, wet weather had meant they’d had a “few adventures getting sheep to town”.
‘Power of grass’ drives quality
Mr Low said the excellent season had meant there was more weight in the sheep this year.
“We’ve got a bigger run of 60-kilogram-plus ewes,” Mr Low said.
Most 60kg-plus ewes sold for between $360 and $390 at the sale, while those between 55kg and 60kg mostly made from $280 to $330 a head.
But the yarding was down from last year’s sale, which saw 36,000 sheep penned.
Mr Low said graziers were still re-building flock numbers following smaller lamb markings during the drought.
“People are probably retaining more five-year-old [ewes] this year … we’ve only got a handful of lines of five-year-olds here,” he said.