Extra heavy lambs reach record price of $256 at Ballarat as demand peaks

Sheep Central February 1, 2017
These August September drop Coolalee-Merino cross lambs, 17.1kg cwt, sold for $110 at Thallon, Queensland, on AuctionsPlus yesterday.

These August September drop Coolalee-Merino cross lambs, 17.1kg cwt, sold for $110 at Thallon, Queensland, on AuctionsPlus yesterday.

LIMITED supplies of quality trade and heavy lambs are driving saleyard prices to record levels and increasing processor grid rates as domestic and export processors struggle to fill orders.

Saleyard rates for trade and heavy lambs started strongly on Monday in Dubbo and Bendigo, with medium trade to heavy and extra heavy lambs consistently selling above 600c/kg cwt. Dubbo’s trade and heavy lambs lifted $6-$9 and at Bendigo, prices lifted $10-$20.

The strong demand continued in all eastern states on Tuesday, with the Ballarat saleyards recording a new national record of $256 for Poll Dorset cross lambs estimated at around 36kg cwt as prices lifted by up to $25. The National Livestock Reporting Service said the 20 pens of extra heavy lambs at Ballarat sold above $200 and seven of those made more than $230.

Landmark livestock manager and auctioneer at Ballarat Xavier Shanahan said the $256 price for 105 Poll Dorset cross lambs from Syd Maher of ‘Golden Grove’, Newlyn was a national record. The Maher family previously sold lambs for a record price of $216 in 2011.

“Yesterday was enormous, we felt we were going to get a good market, but you don’t think you are going to break records,” he said.

“The processors cannot get their hands on enough lambs to fill their kills at the minute, it’s no more complicated than that.

“Lambs aren’t making this money because processors can sell at this price and get a good quid, it’s simply because they can’t fill their kill and they’ve got to buy them at whatever price it is.”

Mr Shanahan said prices at these levels were not sustainable.

“But for someone who has done a good job on lambs and got them ready now when there are limited numbers about and capitalised on it, good luck to them; it’s supply and demand.”

Mr Shanahan said there would be a sell-off of lambs at some point in the autumn.

“I think what is happening now is telling us that they won’t be as plentiful as some people thought they might have been.

“We are not going to go from desperately short to a good supply in three weeks are we? I can’t see that.”

At the South Australian Livestock Exchange on Tuesday, heavy weight lambs rates rose up by $20-plus to up to 748c/kg, setting a new centre record of $232 for 30kg-plus cwt lambs. Extra heavy lambs sold to $223 at Naracoorte.

Over-the-hook indicators lift

The unsatisfied demand for lamb and mutton supplies was also highlighted by the lift in over-the-hook rates this week in most states.

In New South Wales, the NLRS said over-the-hook lamb indicators moved higher across all categories as the saleyard markets strengthened. Mutton indicators lifted slightly week-on-week, with medium weights averaging 375c/kg cwt.

In NSW, the OTH rates for 2-4 score lambs this week are: 18-20kg, 535-600c/kg, up 24c/kg; 20-24kg, 575-600 cents, up 16-24c; 24-26kg, 560-580c/kg, up 28c; Merinos 16-22kg, 495-535c/kg, up 8c. The NSW mutton rates are: 14-18kg, 200-420c/kg, up 4c; 18-24kg, 340-440c/kg, up 3c; 24kg+, 320-370c/kg, up 4c.

In Victoria, the NLRS said over-the-hook lamb indicators continued to lift this week, with top quotes of 600c/kg cwt. Mutton indicators increased all categories, with medium weights up an average of 10c/kg, to 400c/kg cwt.

Victoria’s OTH rates for 2-4 score lambs are: 16-22kg, 560-600c/kg, up 10-13c; 22-24kg, 600c/kg, up 20c; 24-26kg, 560-600c/kg, up 20c. Victoria’s sheep rates are: 14-18kg, 370-380c/kg, up 5c; 18-24kg, 390-410c/kg, up 10c; 24kg+, 230-400c/kg, up 5c.

In South Australia, the NLRS said over-the-hook- lamb categories lifted an average of 7c/kg cwt this week, with trade weight lambs reaching top quotes of 600c/kg cwt. Mutton indicators were unchanged from week-ago levels.

SA’s OTH rates for 2-4 score lambs are: 18-20kg, 535-600c/kg, up 7c; 20-24kg, 575-600c/kg, up 7c; 24-26kg+, 560-575c/kg, up 7c; Merinos 16-22kg, 495-535c/kg, no change. The mutton rates are: 14-18kg, 320-420c/kg; 18-24kg, 240-420c/kg; 24kg+, 350-400c/kg.

In Western Australia, the NLRS quoted the OTH lamb and mutton rates as unchanged this week. The OTH rates for 2-4 score lamb are: 16-18kg, 440-460c/kg; 18-22kg, 480-560c/kg; 22-26kg, 500-560c/kg; 26kg+, 460-500c/kg; Merinos 16-22kg, 440-460c/kg. The sheep rates are: 14-18kg, 290-320c/kg; 18-24kg, 250-320c/kg; 24kg+, 250-270c/kg.

OTH price upturn typical

The NLRS said the upturn in over-the-hook prices is typical for the January to March period, following the end-of-year low point, although since 2013, the seasonal November/December low point has progressively moved higher each year.

The top quotes for heavy trade lambs (22-24kg cwt) direct-to-works in NSW this week at 600c/kg cwt, with the indicator averaging 587c/kg cwt – is up 79 cents on the same time last year. This is the highest the indicator has reached since August 2016, NLRS said. The heavy lamb (22-24kg cwt) over-the-hook indicator average of 583c/kg cwt this week is 75 cents higher year-on-year.

Heavy trade lambs in Victoria were on par with their NSW counterparts – with the direct-to-works quotes of up to 600c/kg cwt this week, and the indicator averaging 587c/kg cwt being up 59 cents on the corresponding period last year. The Victorian heavy lamb over-the-hook indicator average of 600c/kg cwt this week is 77 cents above year-ago levels, and is the highest the indicator has been since October 2016.

Last week, MLA reported eastern states lamb slaughter totalled 325,480 head – underpinned by reduced processing across all states. Total eastern states lamb slaughter was down 17 percent from the previous week, and 6pc from the corresponding period last year. Victorian lamb kill was back 2pc year-on-year, at 157,567 head, while NSW and SA slaughter declined 2pc and 11pc respectively, to 84,466 and 70,439 head.

The Eastern States Daily Indicators after Tuesday’s saleyard sales are: restocker, 666c/kg, up 17 cents; Merino 587c/kg, up 17c; light 624c/kg, up 9c; trade 637c/kg, up 22c; heavy 657c/kg, 23c. The ESDI for mutton rose 13 cents to 410c/kg.

Dubbo’s heavy lambs $7-$9 dearer

In New South Wales at the Dubbo saleyards on Monday, the agents yarded 18,320 lambs, 1680 fewer than last week, and 9200 sheep, 1460 more.

The NLRS said it was a good quality yarding with a good number of heavy weight lambs and a fair selection of trade weights. Dorper lambs were also well-supplied, while the Merino lambs were in limited supply. All the regular buyers competed solidly in another strong market.

Light weight lambs sold to processors were $5 dearer, with the 12-18kg 2 scores selling from $87-$115. Trade lambs were $6-$8 dearer, with 18-23kg old lambs making $111-$161 to average 650-660c/kg cwt. Heavy weight lambs were $7-$9 dearer, with the over 22kg 4 scores selling from $158-$227. The limited selection of Merino lambs was $8 dearer and trade weight Merinos sold from $108-$130. Restockers paid to $118 and hoggets sold to $128.

It was a plainer quality yarding of mutton. The light and medium weight sheep sold firm to $5 cheaper and heavy weights were up to $10 cheaper. The 2 score ewes sold from $36-$85. The better 3 and 4 score Merinos sold from $78-$119 and crossbreds made $128. Restockers paid to $125 for Merino ewes and to $139 for crossbred ewes. Merino wethers sold to $118.

Corowa’s extra heavy lambs lift by up to $25

At the Corowa sales yards on Monday, the agents yarded 7500 lambs, 1800 fewer than last week, and 3000 sheep, 500 less.

The NLRS said heavier lambs were well-supplied and quality was very good. The market fluctuated throughout the sale, with strong competition, especially on 20-24kg cwt lambs. Fewer secondary lambs were presented. The dearer market was a reflection of demand being stronger than supply. All the usual buyers attended, but not all competed fully.

Lambs market sold up to $25 dearer. Shorn light trade weight lambs made $118-$148, medium trade were $4 dearer at $129-$161 and heavy trade weights were $10 dearer at $150-$176, averaging 670c/kg. Heavy lambs were $15 dearer at $160-$189 and extra heavy lambs made up to $25 at $183-$216.

Mutton quality improved this week. Prices were up to $20 dearer on the lighter Merino sheep and back a few dollars on the heavier lines. The 18-24kg Merino ewes sold from $98-$124. Heavy crossbred ewes made to $135, Merino ewes sold to $134, wethers to $131 and hoggets to $142.

Keen export lamb demand at Tamworth

At the Tamworth saleyards on Monday, the agents yarded 3600 lambs, 400 more than last week, and 1500 sheep, 2300 fewer.

The NLRS said lamb quality was fairly mixed, with a good supply of heavy and extra heavy weights, along with a reasonable number of good quality light weight young lambs. An extra trade operated. Demand was strong for all classes of good quality lambs, but weaker for secondary quality lots.

Trade weight lambs sold firm to slightly dearer, with the extra buyer operating at a limited capacity. The good quality light weight young lambs to restock changed little in price. Heavy and extra heavy weight lambs attracted keen support, particularly those destined for export. The heaviest of the lambs experienced strong price gains, aided by an increase in weight in some cases.

The market for grown sheep was firm to slightly dearer on the back of a strong export market. Restockers were active on a line of large framed Merino ewes carrying an almost full fleece.

Forbes’ heavy lambs lift $6-$8

At the Forbes saleyards on Tuesday, the agents yarded 29,050 lambs, 4350 more than last week, and 6050 sheep, 1400 more.

The NLRS said lamb quality was fair, with a good selection of well-finished lambs and plainer lighter types. Most of the offering was heavy and extra heavy weight lambs. The usual buyers competed in a dearer market.

Light lambs lifted $3 to $112-$123. Trade weights were $5 better at $128-$154. Heavy and extra heavy weight lambs were well-supplied and lifted $6-$8. Heavy lambs sold from $152-$175 and extra heavies made $165-$230. Carcase prices averaged 650-666c/kg.

The sheep were mostly Merinos and quality was very mixed. Prices remained firm to slightly easier, with Merino ewes selling from $80-$135. Crossbreds made $85-$129 and Dorper ewes sold for $82-$115.

Bendigo lambs lift $10-$20-plus

In Victoria at the Bendigo saleyards on Monday, the agents yarded 10,512 lambs, 10,638 fewer than last week, and 3798 sheep, 202 less.

The NLRS said lamb quality ranged from very good to plain. There were heavy pens of very good shorn lambs off lucerne and feeders, and some plain domestic lambs that often lacked carcase finish and fat cover.

Demand from processors was exceptionally strong and prices were generally $10-$20 dearer, with rates for some categories spiking upwards by more than this. The highlight of the market was bidding from domestic processors on heavy trade and medium trade weight lambs. Prices reached a top of $227 for heavy shorn lambs estimated at around 34kg cwt, followed by another 24 pens at $200-$220. Most heavy lambs weighing over 26kg were estimated at 630-665c/kg.

Competition was strongest on lambs suiting domestic kill orders amid reports some processors were keen to secure numbers. Domestic buyers paid to $185 and the good drafts of crossbred lambs over 21kg were estimated at upwards of 670c/kg, with sales over 700c at times. The supply of light weight lambs was limited and few lines suited restockers.

The strong competition for mutton sheep continued, creating a much dearer market. Heavy crossbred ewes sold from $115-$140, with many pens estimated at over 400c/kg. The main lines of good Merino ewes sold from $108-$139, and trended above 450c/kg. The supply of wethers was limited.

Ballarat lambs up to $25 dearer

At the Ballarat saleyards on Tuesday, the agents yarded 21,169 lambs, 4195 fewer than last week, and 5635 sheep, 306 more.

The NLRS said there was no drop in lamb quality. The usual buyers operated very strongly with lambs selling $10-$15 dearer, and in places selling up to $25 better on last week. The best extra heavy lambs sold to $256, with 20 pens selling above $200 and seven of those making more than $230. The heavier trade weights sold from $152-$180, averaging around 680c/kg and well over 700c/kg in places.

The unshorn lambs, mostly from southern areas, presented in good condition and sold to $188. Restocker lambs were well-supported and mostly sold from $106-$139. A few pens of very light lambs made $30-$90. Most restocker lambs were dearer.

Light weight 2 score shorn lambs sold to $105. Light trade 2 and 3 score lambs made $118-$148 and averaged around 670c/kg. Trade weight 3 and 4 score lambs sold from $142-$163 and heavier weights made $152-$180, or 650-740c/kg, averaging around 680c/kg. Heavy 3 and 4 score lambs sold from $169-$217 and extra heavy export lambs made $214-$256. Trade weight unshorn lambs sold from $147-$184 and averaged around 660c/kg.

The sheep offering included some good runs of heavy sheep. Not all the usual buyers operated, but sheep still sold to strong demand to be mostly firm to $5 up on last week. Light weight 2 score sheep sold from $69-$94. Medium weight 2 and 3 score sheep sold from $77-$116.20, or 390-470c/kg cwt. Merino mutton averaged around 440c/kg. Heavy Merino wethers sold from $115-$128 and the medium weights made $89-$122. Heavy crossbred sheep sold from $103.20-$137 and averaged around 400c/kg. Heavy rams sold to $134. Restockers also paid to $133 for nearly full wool Merino wethers and to $120 for crossbred ewes.

Dublin lamb price record of $232

At the South Australian Livestock Exchange on Tuesday, the agents yarded 7500 lambs, 1000 fewer than last week, and 2500 sheep, 500 more.

The NLRS said lamb prices hit a new SA Livestock Exchange record of $232. The usual trade and processor buyers and a large gallery of restockers attended.

Light and medium weight lambs lifted by $5-$8, trade weight prices were up by $10-$15 and heavy weight lambs rates rose up by $20 and more in places, with carcase prices either side of 750c/kg. Competition was extreme and maintained throughout the lamb and mutton offering.

Young 16-18kg lambs sold from $74-$130 and older lambs of similar weight made $107-$122. The 18-20kg lambs sold from $114-$136, the 22-24kg lines made $138-$176 and the heavy weights sold for $139-$232.

Hoggets sold from $108-$166 with prices for wether hoggets lifting by up to $20. The other mutton categories lifted by $5-$10. A small selection of breeding ewes, mostly score 2, sold from $100-$126 to restockers. Light ewes made $50-$107 and the heavier weights sold from $60-$138. Young wethers sold to restockers from $98 up to $171 for some nearly full wool wethers. Light wethers sold to the trade for $90-$128 and heavy weights made $113-$152. Light rams sold from $50-$126 and heavy rams made $74-$144.

Naracoorte lamb prices lift $10-$15

At the Naracoorte saleyards on Tuesday, the agents yarded 5375 lambs, 1064 more than last week, and 1247 sheep, 33 fewer.

The NLRS said a major supermarket buyer joined the usual buyers, who provided very strong bidding on the generally good quality offering, with several pens breaking the $200 mark.

Restockers were also active, including an Adelaide Hills order from the previous week; however, they only had a limited impact. The sharp spike in prices and fewer lighter weight lambs provided less opportunity to buy, as prices jumped by $10-$15.

Light weight lambs sold to the trade for $110-$115, with the light weight trade 2 and 3 score lambs selling to $132. Restockers only purchased small numbers at $75-$124. Trade weight 3 score lambs lifted up to $12 to $124-$167, averaging 680c/kg.

Heavy lambs were more plentiful this week, with some excellent quality lines making $151-$190. Extra heavy types sold to a market high of $223.

Hoggets made $100-$130. Light weight ewes sold from $52-$78. Medium weight ewes made $84-$97 and heavy lines sold from $96-$136. Wethers sold to $132 and rams to $104.

Muchea trade lambs lift $1-$4

In Western Australia at the Muchea saleyards on Tuesday, the agents yarded 5300 lambs, 3200 more than last week, and 4036 sheep, 3477 less.

The NLRS said quality was not up to last week’s standard, with significant numbers of sheep and lambs lacking finish and weights back considerably on last week. Competition from a full field of buyers, including live exporters, kept prices up, resulting in most categories increasing by $1-$5.

Light store lambs made $38-$80, mostly $3 dearer. Light lamb sold to processors, live exporters and restockers were from firm to $4 dearer at $75-$110 and close to 630c/kg. Trade lambs sold from $102-$128, up $1-$4, averaging close to 540c/kg. Heavy lambs made $110-$134.50, close to $3 dearer.

Hoggets sold to the trade and processors for up to $105 and lighter weight drafts made $55-$70, to be similar to last week. Ewe mutton prices were firm to $5 dearer. Light weight mutton sold from $62-$80 and 2 score medium weight processor drafts made $70-$87, $6 dearer and close to 375c/kg.

Better conditioned and heavy weight ewes sold from $80-$110, $2 dearer and close to 340c/kg. Restockers paid more for a limited number of Merino ewe hoggets at $60-$116 and mature drafts from $85-$92.

Wether numbers reduced, but exporters and feeders were keen to secure numbers. Heavy wethers were firm at $90-$131, with the dearer wethers having skin values over $15. Lighter weight and store wethers sold from $55-$115 and were firm to $5 dearer. Rams also sold to strong processor and live export competition. Ram lambs sold for $56-$108 to processors and exporters bought young rams for $45-$120. Processors paid $50-$80 for old rams.

Tasmanian lamb prices follow interstate trends

At the northern Tasmanian saleyards at Powranna and Killafaddy on Tuesday the agents yarded 1050 lambs, 50 more than last week, and 1000 sheep.

The NLRS said all prices were higher, following interstate trends. There was a very good selection of heavy and heavy trade lambs, with most still in the wool, with prices up $3-$7. Light lambs met a similar market.

Restockers bought very small lambs for $81-$89 and paid $100-$118 for light and light trade pens. The trade paid $104-$117 for light trade lambs, $119-$132 for trade weights, $133-$152 for heavy and $137-$171 for extra heavy pens.

All regular exporters were keen for their share in the mutton yards and a big percentage made over $100. The few light sheep made $70-$80, medium weights sold from $80-$116 and heavy $101-$121. Most of the heavy sheep carried a lot of excess condition.

Sources: MLA, NLRS, AuctionsPlus, Landmark.


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