SHEEP and lamb prices mostly improved at major eastern states saleyard markets today as Omicron impacts eased among processor workforces, especially in Victoria.
At the Bendigo saleyards, the National Livestock Marketing Service said a full field of export and domestic buyers helped lift lamb prices $10-$20 and sheep value up by $65.
However, at Dubbo, the NLRS said not all processors attended, with some still suffering from a lack of workers due to COVID.
Trade lambs were most affected by the increased demand, lifting $6 to $12 at Dubbo, and some quality lines at Bendigo selling more than $20 dearer.
Australian Meat Industry Council chief executive officer Patrick Hutchinson said processors were getting on top of current absenteeism, due to AMIC’s advocacy on isolation requirements with governments.
However, he said more workers were needed to return to work to improve the processing capacity situation.
Big change in buyer attendance at Bendigo
NLRS reporter Jenny Kelly said the Bendigo agents yarded 10,500 lambs, up 1700 on last week, and 3800 sheep, 900 more, in a modest change to supply.
“The big change this week was in demand with a full field of export and domestic buyers operating at Bendigo for the first time this year.
“It resulted in much dearer price trends being recorded compared to a week ago,” she said.
Lambs gained $10-$20, with some of the neatest domestic types in the 22-24kg cwt lifting by more due to limited supplies.
“There was evidence of a lot more weight starting to appear in the run lamb with all agents having an impressive line-up of shorn lambs that weighed in excess of 30kg cwt.
“These export lambs sold from $250 to a top of $288 showing a range of 780c to 870c depending on size and breed type for a ballpark average of 830c/kg cwt,” Ms Kelly said.
“Some of the strongest bidding was for trade lambs in the 22-26kg cwt range, with good quality shorn pens consistently making from $215 to $245/head.
“This put most sales in a range of 840c to 900c/kg cwt with select pens of neat domestic lambs peaking at around 940c/kg.”
Ms Kelly said there were some plainer trade lambs lacking breed style shape or carcase finish that sold from $175 to $195. The supply of light lambs was limited and only a few lines sold to restockers. Most light lambs $135 to $175.
Sheep prices surged on the depressed levels of a week ago, with the main category of extra heavy crossbred ewes showing a rise of $65 as prices averaged over $200/head again, Ms Kelly said.
“Competition for sheep was much keener than a week ago with more processors active and this boosted prices.
“Heavy sheep mostly $180 to $220 with a pen of heavy Merino ewes in a skin topping at $240/head.”
Most heavy trade sheep $140 to $180 with good lines of mutton estimated as costing buyers over 600c/kg cwt.
Not all buyers attend Dubbo sale
NLRS market reporter David Monk said the Dubbo agents yarded 11,900 lambs, 4600 more, and 7015 sheep, 4425 more.
He said it was a fair quality yarding with good numbers of heavy weight lambs and only limited numbers of ideal trade weights. White Dorper lambs were well supplied and there were only limited numbers of Merino lambs yarded.
“Not all the regular buyers were present with some works still suffering from the lack of workers due to COVID,” Mr Monk said.
He said trade weight lambs finished $6-$12 dearer and the trade weight old lambs sold from $144-$225 to average 840-910c/kg cwt.
Heavy weight lambs were $12-$20 cheaper, with the 24-30kg lines selling from $205 to $250, while the lambs over 30kg made $252-$265 to average 775c/kg cwt.
The few Merino lambs sold around firm, with most trade weights making $140-$195. A single pen of heavier weights sold for $206. Lambs sold to the restockers up to $8 cheaper at $100-$153. Hoggets sold to $215.
Most grades were represented in the mixed yarding of mutton, with most grades seling firm to $4 cheaper. Merino ewes sold from $102-$220 and crossbred ewes made $114-$215.
Merino wethers sold from $150-$193 and very heavy crossbred wethers sold to $260. Restockers were very active paying from $128-$155 for Merino ewes and from $97-$226/head for Aussie White ewes. The restockers also paid from $120-$258/head for first cross ewes.
Tamworth lamb quality mixed
At Tamworth, NLRS reporter James Armitage said agents yarded 1500 lambs, 1000 fewer than last week, and 1000 sheep, 500 less.
He said lamb quality and condition was very mixed and there was a limited supply of well-finished young lambs.
“The usual processors were in attendance and there was good local restocker support.”
Mr Armitage said the light weight young lambs attracted strong restocker competition to sell on a firm to slightly dearer market trend.
“The limited supply of well-finished young lambs, purchased mainly by local butcher orders sold to dearer trends. The lack of supply helping to lift average quality.
“The market trend for the well finished old lambs was firm to slightly dearer.”
Mr Armitage said there were no extra heavy weights this week and variations in average quality contributed to some of the price improvement.
Restockers were active on any of the young ewes penned. Merino wethers made up the bulk of the sheep offering. Quality and condition was fair to good with a number of lines carrying a medium length skin, he said. Market trends varied with the light and medium weight ewes selling to cheaper trends, while the wethers sold on a firm to dearer trend.
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