Shedding light on a growing class of sheep - Elders Rural Services

Shedding light on a growing class of sheep

Shedding sheep are fast becoming one of the most in-demand classes of sheep in Australia according to recent data from AuctionsPlus.

Sales data on the 2020-21 year highlights a 131 per cent (pc) increase in the number of shedding ewes sold on the platform and a 45pc increase in the number of shedding lambs. Strong demand has carried over into 2021-22 as evidenced by a recent sale of Australian White SIL ewes fetching $1,015/head.

Graph-showing-how-shedding-sheep-are-in-demand-as-producers-look-to-increase-flock-numbers-source-auctionsplus
Shedding sheep are in high demand as producers look to increase flock numbers. Source AuctionsPlus

A niche class of sheep or an emerging mainstay?

Shedding sheep came to Australia in the 1990s when Dorpers were imported from South Africa. The rationale for importing Dorpers was driven by physical and economic factors. There are other shedding breeds but the Dorper was somewhat acclimatized to Australian conditions because South Africa shares a similar climate zone. From an economic standpoint the 1990s coincides with a crash in wool prices, pivoting many flocks towards meat producing sheep, creating interest in shedding breeds among the obvious explosion in crossbreds.

Fast-forward to 2021 and shedding sheep are still somewhat of a niche class of sheep compared to the mainstream Merino and crossbreds. Despite the significant increase in throughput on AuctionsPlus quoted above, shedding lambs totaled 145,918 compared to 765,890 crossbred lambs sold on the platform. However, it can’t be denied that the presence of shedding sheep is growing and so to is the process of continuous improvement.

A White Dorper at heart but an Australian White by breed

Australian White is a popular breed of shedding sheep derived from a White Dorper but crossbred with three other breeds – Poll Dorset, Texel and Van Rooy. The result is a breed developed in Australia for Australian conditions. Australian White sheep share the key benefits of shedding sheep; no shearing costs, parasite resistant, resistant to fly-strike and resistant to lice making for a low maintenance animal which isn’t limited to the traditional grazing property. Not to mention the ability to efficiently convert feed to meat and high fertility rates.

Tattykeel, a stud property run by the Gilmore family in Black Springs New South Wales, is a highly regarded name in the Australian sheep breeding industry and happens to be the birthplace of the Australian White. The bloodline attracts such a premium that it is now certified using a red tag to give buyers confidence that they are purchasing animals directly mated to Tattykeel rams. The premium was on display recently when a pen of red tag certified SIL Australian White ewes sold for a record $1,015/head. The ewes bred by Rodney Vodusek, were offered through Elders Yarrawonga agent Trent Head who was impressed by the result.

“Tattykeel are a leading Australian White bloodline, it’s pleasing to see this level of reward for effort. Red tag certification offers buyers peace of mind and highlights the quality of the ewes presented. Demand has exceeded our expectations with calls from interested buyers in multiple regions, something which bodes well for future sales,” said Mr Head.

Keeping pace with demand

On paper, demand for shedding sheep appears to be outstripping supply, offering a premium for breeding stock. At the same time record prices are tumbling for crossbred and Merino breeding stock, suggesting the cycle is the same regardless of breed or class of sheep. Long term confidence in the future returns from meat sheep is amplified in the current market scenario whereby feed stocks are high, and the price for lamb remains at a favourable level.

Shedding sheep may have been a small niche in the 1990s but the business case remains the same today and has been enhanced by breeders such as Tattykeel. Demand has extended from small to mainstream meat sheep producers and prices are likely to remain supported.

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