HEAVY export lambs are leading a price surge in Australian saleyards this week, fuelled by supply concerns among processors.
However, increased shipments to the United States market and higher US production could mean prices easing for heavy export lambs, according to a Meat & Livestock Australia-commissioned report.
Prices for slaughter increased at most major eastern states markets, with the indicator for heavy lambs climbing 12 cents to 694c/kg on Tuesday, 46 cents up on last week. The trade lamb indicator closed at 686c/kg, up 14 cents, and the light lamb index rose 15 cents to 664c/kg.
In New South Wales at Dubbo on Monday, heavy export lambs sold for what were believed to be record levels, peaking at $253.60, and this was beaten with $260 for lambs at Forbes yesterday.
With 6000 fewer lambs yarded at Dubbo (22,600), the National Livestock Reporting Service said Light weight lambs sold $5 dearer to processors, with 12-18kg 2 scores making $59-$124. Trade lambs were $11-$15 dearer, with 18-23kg 3 scores selling from $108-$176, to average 685-700c/kg cwt. Heavy weight lambs were up to $20 dearer, with 22-26kg 4 scores making $164-$217, The extra heavy weights sold from $220-$253.60, to average 700-730c/kg. Merino lambs were $8-$13 dearer, with trade weights making $118-$161 and heavy weights selling to $201. Feeders paid $6 more, or $106-$122.
Dubbo agents Christie and Hood sold the line of extra heavy weight lambs for the Kerin family, “Happy Valley”, Tomingley, for $253.60.
Auctioneer Colin Hood said he had never before seen prices reach this level at Dubbo in the 55 years he has been operating at the Dubbo saleyards.
The Shanks family from Dubbo also came close to setting the record, selling a draft of 215 lambs for $251.60. It’s the highest price 94-year-old Jack Shanks has ever received. There was only a limited run of extra heavy lambs weighing over 30kg and these sold from $215 to $239/head with prices
Jack, along with son Robert and grandson Ben, operate Shanks Farms and run 4000 crossbred ewes.
“It’s the best price we have ever seen,” Robert said. “We wish we had some more in today to sell.”
Bendigo lambs to $239
In Victoria at Bendigo, the NLRS said agents yarded 17,891 lambs and the limited run of extra heavy lambs weighing over 30kg sold from $215-$239. Several domestic buyers paid more than $200 a head for 20-27kg lambs. The main run of good 24-26kg crossbred lambs made $178-$205. The best 22-24kg types sold from $172-$193. The NLRS said these lambs were estimated at 710-750c/kg cwt and odd pens were much higher. Many lines of 18-2kg crossbred lambs in plain score 2 condition sold for $135-$160 and small export lambs made $106-$130, averaging 670-700c/kg. The best heavy trade weight Merino lambs in good skins and supplementary fed made $170-$200 at 650-700c/kg. Many lighter and plainer Merinos sold at $124-$150 were also estimated at over 700c/kg.
Ballarat lambs sell to $250
At Ballarat on Tuesday, the NLRS said quality lambs in the yarding of 17,563, up 167, generally sold $10-$20 dearer. The best of the extra heavy lambs sold to $250, and heavier trade weights sold from $162-$197, averaging 730c/kg. Select pens of light trade weight lambs at times sold above 800c/kg cwt as processors sought supplies. Feeders and restockers paid mostly $91-$148.
Light weight 2 score lambs made $94-$122. Light trade 2 and 3 score lambs sold from $118.60-$173, averaging 740c/kg. Trade weight 3 and 4 score lambs made $147-$172, with heavier drafts at $162- $197, or 680-800c/kg, to average about 730c/kg. Heavy 3 and 4 score lambs sold from $180-$225 and averaged 700c/kg. Extra heavy export lambs sold from $218-$250. Merino lambs made $102-$160 and the best of the unshorn lambs reached $172.
Forbes sets NLRS record of $260
At Forbes on Tuesday, lamb numbers increased 5395 to 27,945. Light lambs sold from $121-$126. Trade weights were $3-$6 dearer at $133-$163. Heavy and extra heavy weight lambs were $10-$20 dearer and more in places. The 22-26kg lambs made $162-$196 and those over 26kg sold from $195-to a record high price for NLRS reported saleyards of $260. Carcase prices averaged 667-711c/kg. Heavy Merino lambs sold from $154-$200.
MLA reports high prices for Australian lamb in the US
In MLA’s monthly US lamb market update, prices for Australian lamb are reported to be high in the US, as end users continue to face intense competition from other markets for imported product.
However, increased US domestic slaughter combined with high retail prices has resulted in lower retail features and a rise in cold storage stocks of US lamb. Domestic lamb prices have felt the effect of the supply increase and trended lower as a result, the report said. Conversely, imported prices continue to rise in the face of heightened international competition for sheep meat.
Imported lamb prices continue to trade above year ago levels, but those premiums will likely disappear given the shift in the supply situation, the report said. Already the price for some items is either at part or under last year.
According to the USDA, the wholesale price of semi boneless chilled Australian lamb leg is now 6 percent lower than a year ago, while the price of chilled foreshank is 8.4pc under a year ago. Overall imported Australian chilled lamb prices are still about 5pc higher than a year ago.
MLA said Memorial Day holiday lamb features in the US were 25pc lower than a year ago, with lower prices for competing proteins affecting retail traction. Average retail lamb prices are significantly higher than a year ago, in contrast wholesale prices have fallen year-on-year.
Lamb imports from Australia remain below year-ago levels; however, import volumes have increased significantly in recent weeks. In the four weeks ending June 9, lamb imports from Australia were up 21pc year-on-year.
MLA said the increase comes at a time when domestic slaughter is running above year ago levels, and excess production is being moved into cold storage. According to Steiner Consulting Group, the shift in the supply situation could result in easing prices for imported lamb later in the year.
Click here to read the latest monthly US Lamb Market Update
So if live sheep for export in WA are quoted at $125 a head, why are the WA farmers not breeding and producing for the chilled lamb market at these yard prices? Why do they not concentrate on lamb production for the chilled market, they are turned off early, a lamb is lamb, not mutton? The producers over there claim they are sending prime sheep to the Middle East, getting a premium that gives them $125 per head, yet another report says that they are aged and spent, what is the truth of this whole matter? Are the producers over there unable to turn off prime lambs and if not why keep a lamb till it becomes mutton at less value? Is it a processing issue over there or what? And the prices in the east are in the face of one of the worst droughts we have seen since 1982, so drought is not the issue. Good farm management involves planning for drought, not sitting hanging on hoping it will rain till the livestock a farmer has only stores. I am open to being informed by WA farmers as to why they cannot benefit form these high lamb prices as in the east.