Domestic Lamb

Australian lamb prices break out over $200 and 600c/kg

Terry Sim, February 5, 2015

Quality trade lamb prices pushed above 600c/kg cwt and heavy lambs sold for more than $200 in Australian saleyards this week.

Domestic and export buyers are being forced into “hand-to-mouth” buying in saleyards or on the online AuctionsPlus marketplace for lambs as their January-Early February delivery contract supplies run out.

Domestic grid prices hit 590c/kg cwt with Coles this week, but agents said export processors unsure of the likely price direction seem reluctant to offer forward contracts after February.

Agents are reporting intense domestic and export competition for tightening supplies of quality trade lambs as exporters lower their order weights below 24kg dressed, putting pressure on supermarkets.

There is also strong exporter demand for the few extra heavy lines up to 600c/kg cwt and restockers are still keen for the better light trade weight lines offering the quickest turn-over.

Mutton prices also held firm early this week, above 350c/kg cwt on the national and eastern states indicators.

Domestic and export demand is driving competition

With the declining Australian-US dollar exchange rate, rain-driven pasture growth, continuing overseas demand and dwindling contracted supplies, it is becoming increasingly difficult for buyers to talk down or pull back saleyard or grid rates.

At the Bendigo saleyards on Monday the best trade lambs sold to, at Ballarat on Tuesday extra heavy lambs made to $208 and trade weights made up to 640c/kg cwt. In SA sold lambs to $206 at Dublin and to 610c/kg at Naracoorte. At Forbes, heavy lambs sold to $203 and 615c/kg cwt.

Agents said one supermarket, Coles, has lifted its over-the-hook rates 20c/kg cwt in a week to reach 590c/kg cwt for 18-25kg cwt lambs on Tuesday. Woolworths rate at the time was 580c/kg cwt for 20-25kg cwt lambs.

Lack of forward pricing forcing “hand-to-mouth” buying

TB White and Sons auctioneer Gerard White said the lamb market was “a free marketplace” at the moment with buyers being forced into saleyards for supplies, but he believes rates will level now.

“Everyone will be happy if it does. The price might drag a few more lambs out – not a lot.”

“It’s supply and demand, as simple as that.”

He said many store lambs went on feed about six weeks ago and when they returned for sale, would not be very heavy, probably heavy trades.

Elders livestock manager at Bendigo Nigel Starick said the $202 lambs on Monday would have dressed out at 35-36kg, with a $10 skin, bringing them out at around 540c/kg cwt.

“There was a good run of lambs around 28kg cwt, but not big numbers of lambs over 32-33kg.”

He said about 70pc of the yarding would have been over 22kg cwt and supermarkets are taking  lambs up to 25kg cwt.

“I reckon the yardings at Ballarat are about one third light trade and store lambs, one third trade lambs and a third heavy lambs – 25kg-plus cwt.”

Mr Starick supplies are tightest in the 22-23kg range for the domestic buyers’ “proper trade lamb”.

NLRS carcase weight lamb indicators lift

After Tuesday’s saleyard sales, the National Livestock Reporting Service quoted all lamb indicators as significantly higher.

The Eastern States Daily Indicators for lambs are: restocker, 555c/kg cwt, up 8 cents; Merinos, 524c/kg, up 14 cents; light, 553c/kg, up 10 cents; trade, 568c/kg, up 11 cents; heavy, 584c/kg, up 12 cents. The ESDI mutton indicator was up two cents to 358c/kg cwt.

The national indicator for trade lambs rose one cent to 561c/kg cwt and the heavy lamb indice closed on 572c/kg, up three cents. The national mutton indicator was down two cents to 356c/kg cwt.

Over the hooks rates up for lambs, mutton unchanged

In NSW, the NLRS said over-the-hook trade weight lambs and 22-24kg cwt heavy weight lambs were marginally dearer this week. Mutton rates across all weight ranges remained unchanged.

The NSW OTH rates for 2-4 score lambs are: 18-22kg, 490-460c/kg cwt, +8 cents; 22-24kg, 520-560c/kg, +9c; 24-26kg, 510-540c/kg, no change; Merinos 16-22kg, 410-522c/kg, nc. The 2-4 score sheep rates are: 14-18kg, 270-310c/kg, nc; 18-24kg, 310-360kg, nc; 24kg+, 300-360c/kg, nc.

In Victoria, the NLRS said the majority of contributors made upward adjustments to the over-the-hook lamb rates this week, with trade weight lambs up an average of 13c/kg cwt. Mutton rates remained unchanged week-on-week across all categories.

Victoria’s OTH rates for 2-4 score lambs are: 16-18kg, 550-560c/kg, +15c; 18-26kg, 520-560c/kg, +10c; 26kg+, 52-c/kg, nc; Merinos 16-22kg, 510c/kg, +10c. The 2-4score sheep rates are: 14-18kg, 270-340c/kg, nc; 18-24kg, 300-350c/kg, nc; 24kg+, 280-340c/kg, nc.

In SA, the NLRS said the over-the-hook lamb rates remained unchanged week-on-week, and mutton rates also remained steady.

SA’s OTH rates for 2-4 score lambs are: 16-18kg, 540c/kg; 18-24kg, 540-560c/kg; 24-26kg, 520-540c/kg; Merinos 16-22kg, 500c/kg. The 2-4 score sheep rates are: 14-18kg, 200-340c/kg; 18-24kg+, 300-340c/kg.

In WA, the NLRS quoted the lamb and sheep over-the-hook rates as unchanged. WA’s OTH 2-4 score lamb rates are: 16-18kg, 420-510c/kg; 18-22kg, 480-540c/kg; 22-26kg, 490-540c/kg; 26kg+, 440-510c/kg; Merinos 16-22kg, 400-460c/kg. The 2-4 score sheep rates are: 14-18kg, 230-240c/kg; 18-24kg+, 240-280c/kg.

In Tasmania, the NLRS quoted the lamb and mutton over-the-hook rates as unchanged this week. The 2-4 score lamb rates are: 0-18kg, 460-480c/kg; 18-26kg, 480-500c/kg. The 2-4 score sheep rates are: 0-14kg, 260-280c/kg; 14-18kg, 260-300c/kg; 18-24kg, 270-300c/kg; 24kg+, 260-300c/kg.

Dubbo trade lambs lift $10

In NSW at the Dubbo saleyards on Monday, the agents yarded 23,300 lambs, 2300 more than last week, and 7330 sheep, 4100 fewer.

The NLRS said it was a good quality yarding with some excellent lines of heavy weight lambs and a good number of well-finished Merinos. Ideal trade weight lambs were in limited supply as were lightweights to suit the restockers. All the regular buyers operated.

Lightweight lambs were $8 dearer with the 12-18kg 2 scores selling from $66-$95. Trade lambs were $10 dearer compared to the sale of two weeks ago with 18-22kg 3 score old lambs selling from $92-$139, to average 587c/kg cwt. Heavy weight lambs were $5-$7 dearer with the over 22kg 4 scores selling from $135-$196.

The Merino lambs were $5 dearer with trade weights selling from $89-$118 while the heavier weights sold to $135. Hoggets sold to $120.

It was principally a good quality yarding of mutton with a very limited number of lightweight sheep. Most grades were $2-$4 dearer, with 2 score ewes selling from $33-$76. The 3 and 4 score ewes sold from $60-$119 for Merinos and to $112 for crossbreds. The 3 and 4 score wethers sold from $70-$115.

Restockers active at Tamworth

In the Tamworth saleyards on Monday, the agents yarded 4110 lambs, 810 more than last week, and 2025 sheep, 575 more.

The NLRS said the quality of the lamb offering was fair to very good. Trade and heavyweights were well-represented and there was a good quality selection of lightweight young lambs suitable for restockers. The usual buyers attended, along with extra trade competition. The return of one trade buyer had little effect on market trends.

There was little change in prices for the offering of well-finished young trade lamb and old lamb categories. Restockers were active on the good quality lightweight young lambs with the market trend slightly dearer, up to $4. Well-finished heavy lambs over 24kg dressed were well-represented and most had were shorn. The market trend was also firm with the odd slightly dearer sales. There were some very good medium and heavy ewes and wethers penned. There was little change in the market trend.

Forbes heavy lambs sell to $203

In the Forbes saleyards on Tuesday, the agents yarded 23,600 lambs, 350 fewer than last week, and 7900 sheep, 1900 more.

The NLRS said lamb quality was fair, with a good number of well-finished lambs, along with the plainer types. Heavy and extra heavy weight lambs made up most of the yarding. There was a handy selection of trade lambs available. The usual buyers competed, along with some restocker competition, in a dearer market.

Light lambs lifted $5 selling from $100-$103. Trade weights were $8 dearer, with prices ranging from $106-$140. Heavy and extra heavy lambs were $10-$15 dearer, and more in places. Heavy lambs sold from $133-$156 and extra heavy weights received from $150-$203. Carcase prices averaged from 575c/kg-615c/kg cwt.

Mutton quality continued to be very mixed. Prices lifted $2-$3, with Merino ewes selling from $75-$115. Crossbred ewes sold from $76-$120. Dorper ewes ranged from $76-$118.

Inverell competition very strong

At the Inverell saleyards on Tuesday, the agents yarded 1907 lambs and 1372 sheep.

The NLRS said the yarding of lambs was mixed in quality, with some good runs of well-finished trade and heavy weights. However, there was several pens of light 1 and 2 score lambs offered. The market was very strong with processors keen to acquire lambs, while restockers were active in the market, with the season turning around and ample feed available.

The mutton market was also very strong in a yarding that consisted of several pens of well finished medium and heavy ewes and wethers. Restockers were also active, mainly on the lighter end of the sheep.

Bendigo’s heavy lambs make to $203

In Victoria at the Bendigo saleyards on Monday, the agents yarded 19,911 lambs, 7922 fewer than last week, and 11,543 sheep, 1064 more.

The NLRS said the quality over the lamb yarding was very good with a large number of well-presented trade weight and heavy lambs. The usual buyers operated strongly when compared to two weeks ago, with trade and heavy lambs improving $5-$10 and more in places. An outstanding pen of extra heavy lambs reached a market top of $202. Restockers and feeders were active paying from $89-$120 for lambs and from $40-$70 for lighter lots.

Well-presented Merino lambs sold to keen competition from $105-$138 and from $78-$97 for the lighter lots, averaging around 530c/kg cwt.

Light weight 1 and 2 score lambs sold from $72-$94. Light trade 2 and 3 score lambs sold from $89-$122. Trade weight 3 and 4 score lambs generally sold from $117-$139 and heavier drafts made $125-$150, to range from 520c/kg-610c/kg cwt, averaging around 570c/kg cwt. Heavy 3 and 4 score lambs sold from $138-$181 to average around 570c/kg cwt. Extra heavy export lambs sold from $170-$202.

The sheep offering included several runs of heavy crossbred ewes, plus some well-presented Merino wethers and ewes. Compared to two weeks ago, lighter sheep sold from firm to a few dollars dearer, with most other sheep selling at similar levels and the Merino wethers a little easier. Light weight 1 and 2 score sheep sold from $50-$87. Medium weight 2 and 3 score sheep sold from $62-$104 and ranged from 300c/kg-410c/kg cwt to average around 350c/kg cwt. Heavy 3 to 5 score sheep sold from $78-$127.60. Heavy Merino wethers sold from $92-$128 with the medium weights selling from $73-$95, to average around 360c/kg cwt.

Ballarat’s heavy lambs to $208, trades to 640c/kg cwt

In the Ballarat saleyards on Tuesday, the agents yarded 22,878 lambs, 3902 fewer than last week, and 16,665 sheep, 3348 more.

The NLRS said there was no drop off in quality as the usual buyers operated strongly on the well-presented offering of trade weight and heavy lambs. Most lambs sold to very strong demand to be from $5-$8 dearer.

More than seven lots of extra heavy lambs sold at $200, with an outstanding pen reaching the market top of $208. Agents estimated the line at 32-33kg cwt with a $10 skin, coming out at around 610c/kg cwt. Restockers were active, and they paid mostly from $97-$129.50 for suitable turning out lambs.

Light weight 1 and 2 score lambs sold from $90-$98. Light trade 2 and 3 score lambs sold from $108-$133.

Trade weight 3 and 4 score lambs generally sold from $120-$141, with the heavier drafts making $136-$153, to all range from 560c/kg-640c/kg and average around 600c/kg cwt. Heavy 3 and 4 score lambs sold from $138.50-$183 to range from 570c/kg-580c/kg cwt. Extra heavy export lambs sold from $180-$208.

The sheep yarding comprised all weights and grades, with several big lines of Merino sheep. Large numbers of rams sold to $86. Sheep generally sold around last week’s levels, but there were odd lots that showed a small increase of $2-$4.

Light 1 and 2 score sheep sold from $42-$82. Medium weight 2 and 3 score sheep sold from $62-$105, and they ranged from 290c/kg-400c/kg cwt to average around 350c/kg cwt. Heavy 3 to 5 score sheep sold from $80-$130, with heavy Merino wethers selling from $84-$115, and the medium weights selling from $67-$95 to range around 360c/kg-370c/kg cwt.

Heavy Dublin lambs sell to $206

At the SA Livestock Exchange at Dublin on Tuesday, the agents yarded 8073 lambs, 1381 more than last week, and 2126 sheep, 364 fewer.

The NLRS said an increase in buying support helped prices climb and animated bidding pushed lamb prices past $200.

Overall the market sold to a much dearer trend despite the mixed quality offering. Restockers struggled to purchase any significant numbers against the strong trade and processor support. Light weight lambs sold from $39-$41 and the lightweight 2 score types made $83-$104. Light trade lambs ranged from $96-$118 to be at least $10 dearer.

Trade weight 3 score lambs sold from $116-$143 to be $10-$12 better and average 575c/kg cwt. Heavy 4 score lambs ranged from $130-$166 to be $8 dearer and average 606c/kg cwt as numerous pens made up to 640c/kg cwt. Extra heavy 4 and 5 score lambs broke the $200 mark and ranged from $160-$206.

A large number of very light Merino lambs sold from $41-$60, with light weight 2 score types ranging from $68-$107 to be $5-$10 dearer. Light weight 2 and 3 scores ranged from $86-$95 and the trade weight 3 score types made $104-$127 to average 568c/kg cwt, a lift of up to $25 and more at times. A few pens of the heavier types ranged from $128-$160.

Fewer ewes came forward, with most being Merinos. Lightweight 1 and 2 score ewes ranged from $45-$60 and the medium weights made from $62-$92 to be $10-$12 at an average of 335c/kg cwt. The heavier types sold from $80-$95 to be firm. Light weight wethers ranged from $90-$98, with the heavier selection ranging from $95-$116, while rams returned from $70-$106.

Heavy Naracoorte lambs sell to 610c/kg cwt

At the Naracoorte saleyards on Tuesday, the agents yarded 4601 lambs, 2841 more than last week, and 2522 sheep, 312 fewer.

The NLRS said the lambs were of better quality than last week. Prices improved slightly over all weights and grades, with heavy lambs most affected. A good field of participating buyers provided keen and steady competition.

The light weight 2 score lambs sold from $62-$93, with restockers paying from $67-$88. The light trade weight 2 and 3 score lambs made $82-$108. Medium to heavy weight 3 score trade lambs sold between $100-$130 and averaged 560c/kg cwt. The heavy 4 score export lambs were from $130-$166, with extra heavy weights, estimated at 31kgs, to $198. Most heavy weight lambs were from 560c/kg-610c/kg cwt.

Sheep prices fluctuated around last week’s levels in a fair to very good quality offering. The better quality 2 to 4 score ewe sheep made 350c/kg-390c/kg cwt, with the few pens of heavy and extra heavy weight wethers at the top end of that price range. Light weight 1 and 2 score ewes made $50-$74, while medium weight 2 and 3 scores sold from $76-$93. The heavy 3 to 5 score ewes sold from $92-$120 and wethers made to $131. Heavy weight rams sold from $32-$70 and longer wool Merinos made to $78.

Hot weather increases Muchea yarding

In WA at the Muchea saleyards on Tuesday, the agents yarded 6637 lambs, 1417 more than last week, and 9000 sheep, 3487 more.

The NLRS said storms and hot weather resulted in an increased yarding this week. Ewe mutton numbers dominated with a reasonable offering of crossbred lambs along with solid supplies of store Merino lambs, many of which were very light weight. Hogget, wether and ram supplies were moderate.

Quality was mixed with reasonable numbers of heavy ewes and prime lamb drafts. Howver, many were store and light weight drafts. Competition remained solid from a full field of buyers with prime lamb prices lifting along with better store lamb and wether drafts due to live export orders improving.

Mutton prices varied, but finished close to firm. Very light store lambs were mostly Merino drafts which made from $25-$45 and averaged slightly higher. Light lamb to processors, restockers and live export made $55-$96 to be around $2 dearer. Trade lambs lifted $2-$5 with most sales from $90-$120. The prime drafts averaged 509c/kg cwt. Heavy lambs sold from $112-$125.

Ewe prices started easier but improved as the sale progressed to finish close to firm. Light ewes sold mostly to restockers to be $3 dearer, from $40-$63. The 2 score processor mutton made $53-$75 to be $1 dearer and better 3 and 4 score mutton sold from $60-$95 to be $2 easier and close to 290c/kg cwt.

Wether prices were strong, driven by live export demand. Better export wethers sold from $80-$105, marginally dearer, and store drafts made $43-$91 to be $5 dearer. Rams again sold to solid competition with ram lambs from $70-$90 and young drafts to live export and feeders made from $40-$68. Old rams sold to processors for $25-$55.

Sources: MLA, NLRS, AuctionsPlus

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