Processor demand for lambs remained strong early this week, with over the hook rates holding firm or increasing despite fluctuations in saleyards over the past week.
Prices over the next few months are set to be affected by the uncertain turn-off of lotfed and restocked shorn lambs, processors’ contracted supplies, weather conditions and forward contracting by exporters.
After the first day’s sales after the long weekend, MLA’s National Livestock Reporting Service quoted a fall in the Eastern States Daily Indicators for restocking (546c/kg cwt, down 4 cents) and light lambs (532c/kg, down 2 cents). But the main processing categories lifted, with the trade ESDI up three cents to 545c/kg cwt and heavy lamb indice up one cent to 553c/kg cwt. The national trade (547c/kg, up 4 cents) and heavy (557c/kg, up 2 cents) indices were also firmer.
The NLRS quoted the ES and national mutton indicators at 348c/kg cwt, a lift of four cents.
Will lamb prices be softer in February-March or lift further?
Elders western region livestock manager at Ballarat Graeme Nicholson said saleyard lamb rates might hold at the “status quo” or be softer in February-March.
He said there was limited competition for heavy lambs, with only three major exporters.
“And they’ve got enough supplies around them to keep the price at a reasonable level.”
“The trade weight lambs are scarce, so they are making a premium over the heavy lambs.”
There is export demand for light off-bred and Merino lambs, and demand from restockers for better bred store lambs is still insatiable, he said.
“Anything that is well-bred and with short skins – the graziers are buying them all.
“There are a lot of lambs still in the system, so I don’t think we will see the job firm,” he said.
“If anything I would say we could see February-March be a fraction softer.”
Mr Nicholson said he was not sure if the market could soak up a lot of heavy lambs returning from feedlots or pasture-finishing. The market might not reach $200 for heavy lambs until the winter.
“When everyone’s got lambs you are not going to see that sort of money.
“The $190 (estimated 32kg cwt) for lambs at Ballarat yesterday were for elephants, so per kilogram carcase weight they are cheap.”
Mr Nicholson said the heavy lambs coming in were yielding well and the trade lambs “not so much, because the feed is just there”.
“A hot fortnight and you might see a bit of scurry.”
Less good lambs and export contracts could lift prices
TB White and Sons auctioneer Gerard White believed lamb prices will stay firm and gradually rise.
Mr White said exporters generally have lamb contracts up to January, but some are now starting to buy in saleyards.
“Come February, I don’t think they have got a lot of lambs contracted.
“I haven’t heard of any contracts for February, but there may be.”
Mr White said at least half the current Ballarat yardings this year have been light and store lambs.
“There will be no more better quality or heavier lambs coming on the market – it (quality supply) has peaked.
“If Bendigo dropped $10 Monday, we would yard nothing, because we’ve got plenty of fed – we are not going to give them away.”
Mr White said lambs at Forbes and Wagga have sold for up to $198, showing exporters still wanted heavy lambs.
NSW grid rates reach 560c/kg for trade lambs
The NLRS said NSW’s over-the-hook lamb rates lifted slightly across all categories this week, with trade rates reaching a top of 560c/kg cwt. Mutton rates were dearer overall, with medium weight carcases up an average of 6c/kg cwt.
NSW’s OTH lambs rates for 2-4 scores are: 18-20kg, 490-560c/kg cwt; +1 cent; 20-22kg, 4900-560c/kg, +c; 22-24kg, 500-534c/kg, +1; 24-26kg, 510-540c/kg, +2c; Merinos 16-22kg, 410-520c/kg, +2c. The 2-4 score mutton rates are: 14-18kg, 270-310c/kg, +3c; 18-24kg, 310-360c/kg, +6c; 24kg+, 300-360c/kg, +5c.
Victoria’s over-the-hook lamb rates unchanged
The NLRS said Victoria’s over-the-hook lamb rates remained unchanged week-on-week, with the majority of contributors reporting the market has remained steady. Mutton rates were slightly lower across all categories.
Victoria’s OTH 2-4 score lamb rates are: 16-18kg, 540c/kg; 18-24kg, 540-560c/kg; 24-26kg, 520-540c/kg; 26kg+, 520c/kg; Merinos 16-22kg, 500c/kg. The 2-4 score sheep rates are: 14-18kg, 270-340c/kg, -5c; 18-24kg, 300-350c/kg, -4c; 24kg+, 280-340c/kg, -5c.
Most SA lamb grid rates lift
The NLRS said SA’s over-the-hook lamb rates were an average of 20c/kg cwt higher across most categories this week, with trade weight categories averaging 547c/kg cwt. There were downward adjustments to mutton rates week-on-week, with medium weight carcases declining 15c/kg cwt.
SA’s OTH lamb rates for 2-4 score lambs are: 16-18kg, 540c/kg cwt; +30 cents; 18-24kg, 540-560c/kg, +20c; 24-26kg, 520-540c/kg, +20c; Merinos 16-22, 500c/kg, +30c. Sheep rates for 2-4 scores: 14-18kg, 200-340c/kg, -23c; 18-24kg+, 300-340c/kg, -15c.
WA’s trade lamb grid rates dip
The NLRS quoted WA’s OTH lamb and mutton rates as unchanged this week, apart from a drop in trade lamb prices.
WA’s OTH lamb rates for 2-4 score scores are: 16-18kg, 420-510c/kg, NC; 18-22kg, 480-540c/kg, -3c; 22-26kg, 490-540c/kg, NC; 26kg+, 440-510c/kg, NC; Merinos 16-22kg, 400-460c/kg, NC. The 2-4 score sheep rates are: 14-18kg, 230-240c/kg, NC; 18-24kg, 240-280c/kg, NC.
Tasmania hook rates unchanged
The NLRS quotes Tasmania’s OTH lamb and sheep rates as unchanged this week. The OTH 2-4 score lamb rates in the state this week are: 0-18kg, 460-480c/kg; 18-26kg+, 480-500c/kg. The 2-4 score mutton rates are: 0-14kg, 260-280c/kg; 14-18kg, 260-300c/kg; 18-24kg, 270-300c/kg; 24kg+, 260-300c/kg.
Forbes lamb prices pulled back
In NSW at the Forbes saleyards on Tuesday, the agents yarded 23,950 lambs, 5200 more than last week, and 6000 sheep, 550 more.
The NLRS said lamb quality was similar to the previous sale, with good numbers of well-finished lambs on offer. Heavy and extra heavy lambs made up most of the yarding. The usual buyers competed in a cheaper market.
Light lambs sold from $86-$102. Trade weights were firm to $3 easier, from $101-$127.
Heavy and extra heavy weight lambs slipped $3-$5. Heavy lambs sold from $120-$144 and extra heavy weights received from $140-$192. Carcase prices averaged from 520c/kg-560c/kg cwt.
Mutton numbers were made up of mostly mixed quality Merinos. Prices held firm, with Merino ewes selling from $76-$116. Crossbred ewes ranged from $74-$119 and Dorper ewes sold from $70-$110. Merino wethers ranged in price from $92-$122.
Ballarat’s heavy lambs sell to 610c/kg cwt
In Victoria at the Ballarat saleyards, the agents yarded 26,780 lambs, 291 more than last week, and 13,317 sheep, 4242 fewer.
The NLRS said lamb quality was good. The usual buyers operated in a dearer market with most lambs selling to a dearer trend, especially the better-finished trade and heavy lambs, which were generally $2-$8 up on last week. Fewer young lambs with longer skins are being offered, with the better heavier weights selling from $130-$154. Heavy and extra heavy shorn lambs were well-represented and sold to a market top of $190.
Restockers paid mostly from $84-$120 for lambs and to $130 for young first cross ewes, with most restocking lambs selling to a dearer trend.
Shorn lighter trade 2 and 3 score lambs sold from $98-$121. Trade weight 3 and 4 score lambs sold from $113-$137 and the heavier drafts sold from $120-$142, ranging from 510c/kg-610c/kg cwt, to average around 560c/kg-570c/kg cwt. Heavy 3 and 4 score lambs sold from $134-$173 to average around 560c/kg cwt. Extra heavy export lambs sold from $185-$190. Heavy hoggets sold to $126.
The sheep offering included good runs of Merino and crossbred sheep with many Merino sheep in near-full wool. Most sheep sold to a dearer trend, with light and trade sheep up $5 in places. Restockers were active on some sheep and paid from $70-$131 for crossbred ewes and to $114 for Merino wethers.
Light weight 1 and 2 score sheep sold from $45-$76. Medium weight 2 and 3 score sheep sold from $58-$106.50, and ranged from 280c/kg-390c cwt to average around 340c/kg cwt. Heavy 3 to 5 score sheep sold from $87-$124 with heavy crossbred wethers made to $124.50. Heavy Merino wethers sold from $78-$133.50 and the medium weights sold from $71-$107 to average around 370c/kg cwt.
Dublin trade lambs firm
At the SA Livestock Exchange at Dublin on Tuesday, the agents yarded 10,417 lambs, 2618 more than last week, and 3730 sheep, 679 more.
The NLRS said the generally good quality yarding of crossbred and merino lambs sold to easing demand from the usual trade and processor buyers. The best quality trade lambs proved to be the exceptions of the sale and sold up to the values of last week. Restockers and feeders were cautiously active on suitable light weight lambs.
Light weight 2 score crossbred lambs to feeders eased $2, selling from $68-$95, light weight 3 score crossbreds to trade buyers lifted very marginally, to $102-$108 and averaged 521c/kg cwt. The light trade weight 4 score lambs eased $8, selling from $113-$126 and averaging 536c/kg cwt.
Prices for heavy trade weight 4 score lambs remained unchanged, ranging from $115-$140 and averaging 545c/kg cwt. The heavy weight lambs eased $5-$14, selling from $138-$160, or from 538c/kg-546c/kg cwt. A few extra heavy weight lambs sold at $165.
Ultra-light weight Merino lambs sold to restockers at $24-$55 and light weight 3 score Merinos to processors eased $3, selling from $80-$100. Trade weight 3 scores eased $4, selling from $100-$105 and averaging 441c/kg cwt. The heavy weight lambs sold from $107-$125, ranging from 454c/kg-466c/kg cwt. Heavy weight Merino hoggets sold from $93-$118 and crossbreds made $100-$122.
The mixed sheep yarding sold to easing competition from the usual trade and processor buyers. Restockers didn’t provide any input.
Light weight 2 score ewes eased $2, selling from $55-$76 and averaging 276c/kg cwt. Heavy weight 3 score ewes remained unchanged, selling from $75-$100 and averaging 302c/kg cwt. Heavy weight wethers eased significantly, retreating $20 and selling from $82-$108. Heavy weight rams sold from $60-$80.
Lamb prices improve at Naracoorte
At the Naracoorte saleyards on Tuesday, the agents yarded 1760 lambs, 1935 fewer than last week and 2834 sheep, 1396 more.
The MLRS said the usual trade and processor buyers were present, along with a small restocker presence, with lamb prices generally improving.
Light weight lambs sold from $82-$97 to be firm, with restockers paying $54-$95. The small number of trade weight 3 score lambs ranged from $97-$115 and averaged 550c/kg cwt to be $10-$12 dearer. Heavy 4 score lambs returned vendors from $121-$165 at an average of 570c/kg.
Prices fluctuated for the large range of sheep types and weights offered. Light weight 1 and 2 scores ranged from $40-$73, with light weight Merinos making $43-$63 to be firm on last week. Medium weight 2 and 3 scores improved in price to range from $68-$116, with Merinos making $66-$83, or an average of 420c/kg cwt, to be $10-$15 dearer.
Heavy 4 and 5 scores ranged from $108-$136. Lightweight wethers sold from $70-$74, with the heavier selection ranging from $88-$103 to improve $5. Rams ranged from $28-$58.
Live export interest keen at Muchea
In WA at the Muchea saleyards, the agents yarded 5220 lambs, 1142 fewer than last week, and 5513 sheep, 1589 less.
The NLRS said light Merino lambs were in strong supply but there were limited supplies of wethers. Quality was fair with some good prime lambs and reasonable numbers of well-conditioned ewes.
All buyers were active and live export buyers were keen on store wether lamb and wether drafts. Prices were higher for most categories, with prime lambs mostly up $4-$6 and ewes also up $5. Wethers lifted by close to $10 to live export for the few suitable pens.
Light store lambs made $20-$60 with most being light Merino drafts. Light lambs to processors, live export, feed and restockers lifted $4-$6, to $65-$98. Trade lambs sold from $90-$117, up to $6 dearer and close to 510c/kg cwt. Heavy lambs sold from $111-$121 and close to firm.
Ewes were dearer, with most prices lifting close to $4. Light ewes made $45-$56, while the 2 score processor mutton ranged from $45-$75, and $2 dearer at 295c/kg cwt. The 3 and 4 score mutton including heavy drafts made $68-$88, up $5 on average, for a 295c/kg cwt average. Restockers purchased ewes from $40-$98, with prices equal to recent sales.
Wether prices were driven by live export orders with most suitable drafts making $66-$100. Feeders and restockers paid $4 more for lighter and store drafts with sales from $45-$90 for most. Rams also attracted stronger competition, with lamb sales from $70-$95. Young drafts to export and feeders made $40-$74, while old rams sold from $10-$40.
Sources: MLA, NLRS, AuctionsPlus