DOMESTIC lamb prices reached a new level briefly mid-week, with the benchmark Eastern States Trade Indicator briefly jumping to 603c/kg on Wednesday.
As rain, price expectations and seasonal turn-off tightens supplies to saleyards and processors, exports and domestic buyers are increasingly competing for the remaining drafts to get lambs with suitable weight and carcase finish.
Mutton prices also broke through the 500c/kg level this week, with the National Livestock Reporting Service quoting trade sheep generally averaging 400-450c/kg cwt at Wagga on Thursday and some sales touching 500-507c/kg cwt for lines with skins valued at $10-$30.
The 600c/kg trade lamb level breakthrough this week occurred three weeks earlier than in 2015, though it was short-lived, with the indicator dropping back to 599c/kg on Thursday.
In 2015, the ESTLI hit 602c/kg on June 29, only remaining at or above 600c/kg until July 1.
The ESDI for heavy lambs has been at or above 600c/kg since May 30 this year, about a month earlier than it reached this level last year on June 29. The last day it was recorded above 600 in 2015 was August 31 (601), but it has been as low as 570 in that time (July 10). In addition, it had reached as high as 594 on June 4, MLA said.
Meat & Livestock Australia’s market information manager Ben Thomas said one of the main reasons for the significant and sudden lift in prices after faltering early in autumn had been the widespread rainfall in the major lamb producer regions instilling producer confidence. This may only be buoyed if the positive three month rainfall outlook comes to fruition, he said.
“However, this needs to be balanced and last year the indicator hovered the 600c/kg mark for the duration of winter, struggling to make major breakthroughs.
“There are expectations that lamb availability will tighten throughout the winter this year, but whether or not that’s enough to see the indicator to break through and stay above 600c/kg remains to be seen,” Mr Thomas said.
“There have only been rare occasions in the past when prices were above 600c/kg for an extended period, and availability in those times was much tighter than what we’re expecting this time.”
NLRS indicators dip for restocker, light and trade lambs
After Thursday’s saleyard sales, the NLRS ESDIs for lambs were: restocker 633c/kg, down 3 cents; Merino 562c/kg, up 2c; light 584c/kg, down 6c; trade 599c/kg, down 4c; heavy 607c/kg, up 3c. The national trade lamb indicator closed down 4 cents to 598c/kg and the heavy lamb indice finished up 4 cents to 7607c/kg.
The ESDI for mutton was 3 cents down on 393c/kg and the national indicator also fell 3 cents, to 392c/kg.
Carcoar’s medium and heavy trade lambs lift $7-$11
At the Central Tablelands Livestock Exchange on Wednesday, the agents yarded 7400 lambs, 3850 more than last week, and 2230 sheep, 230 more.
The NLRS said lamb quality was mixed. Trade weight and store lambs were well-supplied, but heavy lambs were limited. All the usual buyers operated in a dearer market.
Restocking lambs sold from a low of $35 up to $127 for trade weight lines lacking finish. The medium and heavy trade lambs were $7-$11 dearer to $114-$156 and mostly ranging from 640-660c/kg cwt. Heavy lambs were $3 stronger at $155-$176 and extra heavy lambs made to $210, or mostly from 620-630c/kg.
Sheep quality was very mixed. Prices lifted for lighter sheep by $6-$7 and were firm for heavier lines. Medium weight ewes sold from $70-$101. Heavy mutton made to $144, or mostly from 390-420c/kg.
Wagga mutton hits 500c/kg
At the Wagga Wagga saleyards on Thursday, the agents yarded 30,550 lambs, 11,300 fewer than last week, and 5700 sheep, 5050 less.
The NLRS said the reduced offering due to wet conditions helped lift lamb prices. There was a noticeable increase in demand for heavy export lambs following wet weather and tighter supplies at other selling centres. Trade lambs benefited from stronger bidding from all domestic processors with premiums paid for shorter skinned grain-fed lambs. Restockers were very selective due to the perennial problem of lamb cutting permanent teeth. All major export and domestic processors operated fully.
Well-finished supplementary fed trade lambs were keenly sought and there was a clear price distinction between grass-finished pens. Trade lambs generally sold unchanged to a few dollars dearer, averaging 610c/kg. Merino trade lambs attracted premium prices regardless of skin length and buyers paid from $116-$157, to average 587c/kg. Southern export processors had the greatest influence over the lighter weight categories, with lambs sold to slaughter averaging around 581c/kg. Restockers were cautious, with only a handful of pens returning-the paddock at $72-$118.
Heavy and extra heavy lamb numbers were in reasonable supply and bidding was solid, with prices firming as the sale progressed. Heavy lambs were keenly sought by several domestic processors, which helped lift prices $5 to $157-$176. Supply pressure built as the market progressed for the extra heavy pens as buyers scrambled to fill loads. The better-finished heavy pens sold at $180-$228, averaging 612c/kg.
The mixed quality sheep offering included all weights and grades. Reduced numbers and a shortage of mutton at all selling centres fuelled another price rise over all classes. Two major companies were the market drivers, with other processors unable to match the higher prices. Generally mutton averaged 400-450c/kg, with some sales touching 500-507c/kg. Medium and heavy mutton sold from $100-$180.20.
Hamilton’s medium and heavy trades $2-$4 dearer
In Victoria at the Hamilton saleyards on Wednesday, the agents yarded 4614 lambs, 2587 fewer than last week.
The NLRS said the mixed quality lamb yarding included very good and drafts. The usual winter time buyers competed in an overall robust market.
Demand remained steady with prices for light lambs firm, and medium and heavy trade lambs $2-$4 dearer. Extra heavy lambs were $1-$2 cheaper. Restockers from SA were active early in the sale at mostly $82-$114. Processors paid $90-$104 for the light weight 2 score lambs. Light trade weight 2-3 scores sold from $100-$116, averaging close to 610c/kg. Medium trade weights 3 and 4 scores sold from $118-$150, or 565-653c/kg, averaging an estimated 620c/kg. Heavier trade weight drafts of 4 score lambs made $148-$175 and the extra heavy export lambs sold for $176-$210, averaging 590c/kg.
More Merino sheep were offered, varying greatly in wool length from full wool to bare shorn. Most sheep sales of light and medium weight were $2-$5 dearer and the Merino wethers sold $10-$20 higher at times. Light weight sheep of 1 and 2 score sold from $35-$85, medium mutton 2 and 3 score made $69-$115, with longer wool ewes making to $127. Merino mutton averaged close to 400c/kg. Heavy crossbred sheep 3 and 4 scores sold from $98-$114. The medium weight Merino wethers made $84-$124, with the heavier drafts making from $110 up to $143 for a pen of full wool wethers. Rams sold strongly, with best of all breeds making $92-$116.
Horsham’s heavy lambs sell to $210
At the Horsham saleyards on Wednesday, the agents yarded 5469 lambs, 2279 fewer than last week, and 870 sheep, 390 more.
The NLRS said the lamb offering include 2500 Merino lambs. Quality was average to good, with most of regular buyers operating.
The best heavy lambs sold to $210, with better covered trade weight lambs making $146-$170 at around 620c/kg. The heavier Merino lambs with varying wool lengths, sold from $126-$161 at around 560c/kg, and the lighter weights made $97-$140. Strong demand for domestic lambs pushed prices up $5-$10.
Light weight 2 score lambs made $73-$106. Light trade 2 and 3 score lambs sold from $102-$141 and averaged around 600c/kg. Trade weight 3 and 4 score lambs sold mainly from $131-$146.50 and the heavier weights made $146-$170, or 590-665c/kg, averaging around 620c/kg. Heavy 3 and 4 score lambs sold from $158-$190 and the extra heavy lambs made $198-$210. Heavy hoggets sold to $130.
The sheep yarding included all weights. There was strong competition and the medium and heavy sheep sold firm to a few dollars dearer. Light weight 1 and 2 score sheep sold from $60-$81 and averaged around 400c/kg. Medium weight 2 and 3 score sheep sold from $85-$121 and ranged from 360-445c/kg. Merino mutton averaged around 425c/kg. Heavy 3-5 score crossbred sheep sold from $93-$120 and heavy Merino ewes made $125-$140. Heavy Merino wethers sold to $130 and the medium weights made $93-$98.
Katanning lamb prices ease on quality
In Western Australia at the Katanning saleyards on Wednesday, the agents yarded 5650 lambs, 365 fewer than last week, and 4000 sheep.
The NLRS said it was a mixed quality yarding of sheep and lambs at Katanning. Lamb prices eased on quality.
Light weight lambs sold from $48-$94 and Merino lambs made $50-$90. Trade weight crossbred lambs sold from $96-$112, with Merinos making to $74. Heavyweight lambs sold to $123. Crossbred lambs sold to feeder buyers made from $35 for the light weights up to $108 for the better quality lines. Merino store lambs sold from $40 for the light weights up to $90 for the heavier better-framed types. Ram lambs sold to live exporters for $70-$93 and processors paid to $86. Older rams sold from $5-$25 for slaughter.
Grown sheep prices rose due to the limited number available. Young Merino ewes sold to processors for $60-$103, depending on weight and size, and restockers paid up to $92. Mutton was in strong demand, with light ewes in a full fleece selling from $48-$83 and heavier mutton making $78-$105. Young wethers sold for $55-$99 to processors, depending on weight and condition, with feeders paying $66-$110 and live exporters $87-$96. Older wethers sold for $68-$97 to restockers and feeders and live exporters at $89-$105.
Warwick lambs $10-$15 dearer
In Queensland at the Warwick saleyards on Wednesday, the agents yarded 1013 lambs and hoggets, and 316 sheep.
Lamb prices were quoted $10-$15 higher for the smaller yarding and the reduced better quality offering of sheep sold $5-$8 dearer. The top-priced 60.2kg lwt lambs made $172 Goondiwindi producer R. & V. Cranney of ‘Bonyi’.
Crossbred lambs 51-55lg lwt sold from $134-$153, 46-50kg lambs made $138-$155, 41-45kg lambs sold for $132-$141 and the 35-40kg lines made $100-$116. Shorn crossbred hoggets 52.5kg lwt sold-$114.
Trade wethers with $15 skins sold-$121, or 325c/kg , and light wethers with $4 skins made-$65, or 315c/kg. Heavy crossbred ewes with $15 skins sold-$117, or 325c/kg, and light ewes with $3 skins made-$60, or 295c/kg.
Sources: MLA, NLRS, AuctionsPlus.