TB White auctioneer Gerry White sells a run of $200-plus lambs at Ballarat yesterday.
LAMB prices started to hit record prices in Victoria this week as northern saleyards reported rapidly declining supplies, especially of heavy and extra heavy lambs.
At several saleyards, restocker lambs peaked at more than 900c/kg cwt as the Eastern States Daily Indicators for these jumped 30 cents on Monday and then 18 cents on Tuesday to close at 820c/kg. The indicator for light lambs improved 22 cents in the past two days, closing at 771c/kg.
The best of the trade weight and some heavy lambs also made more than 800c/kg in saleyards early this week, equalling and sometimes exceeding spot and June over-the-hook rates. Contract hook rates for heavy lambs are currently around 760c/kg for up to 32kg cwt and 710c/kg for 32kg-plus.
At the Dubbo saleyards on Monday, light lamb prices lifted $9-$12, trade lambs were $10-$13 dearer and heavy lamb prices rose $10-$18.
At the Bendigo saleyards on Monday, heavy lambs gained $7-$15 and nearly 50 pens of heavy lambs made more than $200 with more intense competition from domestic processors.
Trade weight lambs were also $4-$5 dearer at Forbes on Tuesday and the heavy and extra heavyweights rose $6-$9.
Extra heavy lamb rates are yet to reach the record prices of 2018, when lambs sold for up to $318 in Griffith in August, but on Tuesday at the Central Victorian Livestock Exchange Ballarat agents set a new centre record of $287 with two lines of lambs sold to Fletcher International Exports. The previous centre record of $267 for lambs was set at Ballarat in July last year by lambs from the Maher family at Springbank, sold through TB White and Sons.
NSW holds the national record of $344 for extra heavy lambs
The National Livestock Reporting Service said the Bendigo saleyards holds Victoria’s record for the highest price per head for lambs with $298 paid for extra heavy lambs in August last year and the national record of $344 was set at the Dubbo saleyards in September last year.
Yesterday TB White and Sons auctioneer Gerard White sold 119 extra heavy export Poll Dorset cross lambs for $287 for well-known heavy lamb supplier James Sobey from Blowhard north of Ballarat. The January shorn lambs were estimated at about 40kg cwt with a $6 skin value bringing them out at about 700c/kg.
TB White and Sons livestock manager Xavier Bourke said the saleyard market has become more buoyant after being flat for weeks.
“We’ve been hooking a lot of lambs and getting similar prices.
“The contracts been very good, but the saleyard price is catching up with the over-the-hook prices.”
He said extra heavy lambs at Ballarat yesterday sold from 700-720c/kg cwt, with trade lambs making 750-800c/kg, compared to trade lamb contracts at 780c/kg.
Mr Bourke expected the higher prices to bring more heavy lambs into saleyards, “but there is not a big supply out there.” He also expected trade lamb numbers to peter out quickly in about a month and new season lambs would be very late.
Mr Sobey said $287 was the highest price he had received for lambs sold in a saleyard. His previous highest price was $259 in the old Ballarat saleyards last year. The $287 lambs had been on an irrigated lucerne paddock since January and then finished in a feedlot on grain and Lucerne silage over the last month. He had another 1200 lambs to sell.
Landmark Ballarat livestock manager Xavier Shanahan said a Loxton lot feeder client was paid $287 for 152 Poll Dorset and White Suffolk cross lambs that were estimated at 38-40kg cwt with a $5 skin value. A second line of 250 lambs sold for $276.
“They were outstanding, immaculately presented – as a line of lambs you would stand over.”
He expected the supply of lambs into Ballarat in July, August and September would be “very, very light.”
He said the recent rainfall across the area would allow breeders to “batten down with confidence”.
“The situation was getting critical – I felt if we had missed out on the rain over the last 10 days, I reckon local breeders would have sold their older ewes (for mutton), which we don’t see in this area too often.
“It saved people from going into the next phase of slaughtering pregnant sheep.”
Mr Bourke also expected the rain to have a greater effect on store stock than on lambs, with producers now more willing to hold older pregnant ewes and lamb them down.
“You will see mutton numbers diminish very quickly.”
The ESDI for heavy lambs closed up eight cents yesterday on 744c/kg and the trade lamb indicator was up seven cents to 760c/kg.