Domestic Lamb

Lamb and mutton prices fall again as producers go direct

Sheep Central, March 18, 2015
These 18kg cwt White Suffolk cross lambs at Violet Town in Victoria sold for 4104 on AuctionsPlus this week.

These 18kg cwt White Suffolk cross lambs at Violet Town in Victoria sold for $104 on AuctionsPlus this week.

Processors with forward supplies of lambs and more secondary quality drafts from the escalating seasonal turn-off dragged prices down in eastern states saleyards and over-the-hooks early this week.

The best quality trade lambs have been least affected by the saleyard price decline. But mutton prices have also suffered, with some buyers not operating at centres. The skin price drop is affecting sheep and lamb rates.

Western Australia was the exception this week as rain reduced the lamb offering at Muchea and helped lift heavy weight prices $5-$10 and keep trade weight rates firm.

Eastern states agents report that export and domestic processors with two to three week supplies of lambs booked in for slaughter have been unwilling to quote forward prices and restocking confidence has fallen due to the lack of contracts.

Supplies and market could change in April

Landmark Bendigo auctioneer Richard Leitch expected the market for lambs to change again in April.

“I just think it is short term at the present because of what has been happening in the north (with numbers coming in) and quite a few of our exporters have 2-3 weeks kill in front of them.

“If you can organise three inches of rain across Australia; that will fix it quicker.”

He said lamb skin prices have come back from $8-$10 to $3-$5.

With lambs getting heavier, producers are being forced to “bite the bullet” and turn-off drafts for the saleyard and OTH spot prices being offered, he said.

“It will be an interesting three weeks and then all of a sudden the flush will be gone and we will be wishing we had a few lambs around us.”

Three inches of rain in January kicked along the area’s dryland lucerne, Mr Leitch said.

“We are not too bad for feed and water, but the biggest trouble with heaps of dryland lucerne is that you have 24kg lambs and then all of a sudden they are 30kg before you know it.”

Processors reluctant to offer forward prices

Mr Leitch said he cannot get any export or domestic processors to commit to forward contracts on lambs. Early forward contracts gave restockers confidence to buy store lambs, but demand for restocking lambs has “pulled right back”.

“Three weeks ago there would have been 12-14 buyers trying to buy restocker lambs in Bendigo – on Monday there was one.

“They can’t get a forward contract and where the price is heading at the present they are not willing to take the chance,” he said.

Trade and heavy lambs back $30-$40 in a month

Landmark auctioneer at Dublin Bill Warton said trade and heavy lamb market has come back $30-$40 the past month, with trade weights least affected.

“All the meatworks are full of lambs – you can’t a booking to get lambs killed for at least 2-3 weeks,” he said, with major export processors unwilling to quote a forward price for lambs.

“A lot of lambs on Monday were only 500c/kg and I think this will be the case until they get this backlog cleared out.

“I think it could be 2-4 weeks before see much change in the job.”

Mr Warton said the region’s producers were running out of feed and it was not economical to feed grain at the current prices.

“I can’t see that the numbers are going to drop, because the vendors are saying we are going to sell our lambs, we are not going to feed them.”

NLRS saleyard indicators fall for lamb and mutton

The National Livestock Reporting Service’s Eastern States daily carcase weight price indicators for lamb fell 6-20 cents after Tuesday’s saleyard sales. The eastern and national mutton indicators both lost 15 cents – the ES indice closing on 320c/kg and the national indicator on 319c/kg.

The NLRS lamb ESDIs are: restocker, 490c/kg, down 20 cents; Merino, 429c/kg, down 9c; light, 469c/kg, down 9c; trade, 498c/kg, down 12c; heavy, 500c/kg, down 6c. The national trade lamb indicator is at 500c/kg, down 12 cents and the heavy indice is also on 500c/kg, down 7 cents.

Lamb over-the-hook rates fall across eastern states

In NSW, the NLRS said over-the-hook trade weight lamb rates were slightly cheaper again this week. Heavy weight lambs and all weight ranges of mutton remain unchanged.

NSW’s OTH rates for 2-4 score lambs are: 18-20kg, 480-560c/kg, down 9 cents; 20-24kg, 500-560c/kg, down 9-10c; 24-26+kg, 500-520c/kg, no change; Merinos 16-22kg, 400-480c/kg, no change. The 2-4 score mutton rates are: 14-18kg, 250-340c/kg, up 3c; 18-24kg, 280-360c/kg, nc; 24kg+, 320-340c/kg.

In Victoria, the NLRS said the majority of contributors made downward adjustments to lamb over-the-hook rates this week, with trade weight lambs declining an average of 15c/kg cwt. Light and medium weight mutton rates were marginally lower week-on-week.

Victoria’s OTH rates for 2-4 score lambs are: 16-18kg, 540c/kg, down 15vc; 18-24kg, 540-560c/kg, down 17c; 24-26kg, 520-540c/kg, down 15c; 26kg+, 520c/kg, down 10c; Merinos 16-22kg, 500c/kg, nc. The 2-4 score mutton rates are: 14-18kg, 290-330c/kg, down 3c; 18-24kg, 320-340c/kg, down 3c; 24kg+, 310-340c/kg, nc.

In SA, the NLRS said over-the-hook lamb rates were lower across all categories this week, with trade weight lambs topping at 560c/kg cwt. Mutton rates increased, with tops of 320c/kg cwt for medium weight carcases.

SA’s OTH rates for 2-4 score lambs are: 16-18kg, 500c/kg; 18-24kg, 500-560c/kg; 24-26kg, 500-520c/kg; Merinos 16-22kg, 480c/kg. The 2-4 score sheep rates are: 14-18kg, 250-320c/kg; 18-24kg, 300-320c/kg; 24kg+, 320-350c/kg.

In Western Australia, NLRS quoted the over-the-hook lamb and mutton rates as unchanged.

WA’s OTH rates for 2-4 score lambs are: 16-18kg, 450-530c/kg; 18-22kg, 510-535c/kg; 22-26kg, 520c/kg; 26kg+, 470-530c/kg; Merinos 16-22kg, 400-480c/kg. The 2-4 score sheep rates are: 14-18kg, 230-240c/kg; 18-24kg, 240-280c/kg.

Tasmania’s over-the-hook rates for mutton and lamb were unchanged this week, according to the NLRS.

Tasmania’s OTH rates for 2-4 score lambs are: 0-16kg, 460-480c/kg; 16-18kg, 480-550c/kg; 18-22kg, 510-540c/kg; 22-26kg, 520-540c/kg. The 2-4 score mutton rates are: 0-14kg, 280-300c/kg; 14-18kg, 290-330c/kg; 18-24kg, 310-330c/kg; 24kg+, 300-330c/kg.

Dubbo’s heavy lambs $7-$10 cheaper

In NSW on Monday, at the Dubbo saleyards, the agents yarded 22,940 lambs, 3060 fewer than last week and 13,190 sheep, 690 more.

The NLRS said it was a plainer quality yarding with lambs presenting in dry condition as seasonal conditions remain dry. Most of the regular buyers competed in a cheaper market.

Lightweight lambs were the least affected by the tougher market, falling $3. The 12-18kg cwt 2 score lambs sold from $52-$87. Trade lambs were $6-$8 cheaper, with the 3 scores selling from $75-$109, to average 460c/kg cwt. Heavy weight lambs were $7-$10 cheaper, with the over 22kg 4 scores selling from $100-$168.

Trade weight Merino lambs were $8-$13 cheaper at $74-$98 and the heavier weights sold $6 easier, making up to $108. Restockers and feeders were more active in the cheaper market, paying from $52-$113. Hoggets sold to $106.

The mixed quality yarding of mutton had some good lines of ewes and wethers, along with a large percentage of plainer types. Ewes were $5-$8 cheaper, while the few wethers yarded were up to $12 cheaper. The 2 score ewes sold from $23-$69, while the 3 and 4 scores made $55-$101 for Merinos and to $107 for crossbreds. The 3 and 4 score Merino wethers sold from $63-$118.

Tamworth trade lambs $6-$7 cheaper

At the Tamworth saleyards on Monday, the agents yarded 3525 lambs, 795 more than last week, and 2230 sheep, 30 more.

The NLRS said the quality of the lambs was fair to very good, with heavy lambs well-supplied. The trade were also well catered for. However, the quality of the lambs suitable to restockers was plain. All the usual buyers attended. Market trends through all classes of lambs were cheaper and quality was the major contributing factor in the fall in price for lambs to restockers.

The good quality medium and heavy trade lambs were $6-$7 cheaper, with secondary quality lines falling more. Heavyweight lambs were least affected, trending firm to $2 cheaper.

Included in the sheep offering was a large line of young Merinos. Overall quality was fair to good and included a number of heavy lines. Market trends were firm to cheaper with weight and skin value variations contributing to the cheaper prices.

Forbes trade and heavy lambs $5-$8 easier

At the Forbes saleyard on Tuesday, the agents yarded 23,300 lambs, 1800 more than last week, and 9200 sheep, 870 more.

The NLRS said lamb quality remained similar. There were still good numbers of well-finished lambs offered though more of the offering showed signs of dryness. The usual buyers competed in a cheaper market that varied on quality.

Light lambs slipped $10, selling from $76-$83. Trade weights were $5-$8 cheaper and more in places, depending on quality, ranging from $95-$115. Heavy and extra heavyweight lambs were also $5-$8 easier. Heavy lambs sold from $117-$124 and extra heavy weights made $129-$174. Carcase prices averaged from 455-520c/kg cwt.

The sheep were mostly Merinos and quality was very mixed, with more light lines. Prices slipped $5-$6, with Merino ewes selling from $74-$115. Crossbreds ranged from $75-$112. Merino wethers sold from $85-$106.

Inverell lambs down $10-$15

At the Inverell saleyards on Tuesday, the agents yarded 1956 lambs and 1540 sheep.

The NLRS said the yarding consisted of a good supply of trade weights and several pens of heavy lambs, along with some light plain lambs. Quality was fairly good in a market that was easier compared to the sale two weeks ago.

The light trade lambs were less affected than the trade and heavy weights, which were down by $10-$15.

The yarding of mutton was made up of several pens of heavy ewes and wethers in full wool, with some light plain sheep. Overall the market was down by $10.

Bendigo lambs slip $10-$20

In Victoria at the Bendigo saleyards, the agents yarded 17,314 lambs, 176 more than last week, and 7574 sheep, 1223 more.

The NLRS said there was a good selection of heavy export lambs, while quality and finish was more mixed over the trade and light weight lambs. Processor competition was much weaker compared to the last sale held a fortnight ago.

Most lambs averaged $10 easier, however falls of up to $20 were recorded for some of the heaviest export lambs and the plainer trade lambs around 18-20kg cwt. Prices varied on quality, with the better bred and nicely presented trade and store lambs holding their value the best. The secondary and small pen lots of plain and mixed lambs were severely discounted at times.

While the usual buyers were present, feedback suggests most meatworks currently have plentiful supplies of lambs around them. Also affecting the market this week was lower skin values, with buyers working on returns of $3-$6 for the cleaner skins over 2.5 cm, with no value put on short-wool and recently shorn pelts.

The market did reach a top of $160 for a pen of export lambs, estimated to have a carcase weight of about 32kg. However, sales over $150 were limited to just a few pens. Prices for light weight lambs fluctuated depending on quality and finish. Restockers from Swan Hill, Ballarat, Finley and the local Bendigo area still gave solid support to the better-bred lines of recently shorn store weights, with lines making $85-$92.

Processor bidding was selective and most light weight slaughter lambs under 21kg cwt sold from $74-$100. The best quality trade lambs suitable for the top domestic orders sold from $112-$130, ranging from about 480-530c/kg cwt, to average around 500-510c/kg. Export demand was subdued and most heavy lambs, 26-30kg, sold from $132-$149, ranging from 470-490c/kg.

The cheaper trend flowed through into the mutton sale, some buyers did not compete. Prices were significantly cheaper compared to a fortnight ago, with the general run of sheep costing processors an estimated 290-320c/kg cwt, though odd sales of Merinos were higher. Only very heavy ewes, or Merinos with a big fleece, made over $100.

Ballarat lambs $5-$10 cheaper

At the Ballarat saleyards on Tuesday, the agents yarded 23,353 lambs, 2881 fewer than last week, and 6733 sheep, 6617 fewer than last week.

The NLRS said the quality of the trade weight and heavy lambs was good, with fewer heavy lambs penned. The usual buyers operated in a generally cheaper market with lambs selling $5-$10 easier than last week.

Some quality pens of light trade weight Southdown cross lambs sold at near firm levels, with trade weight lambs lacking finish being the most affected.

Restockers and feeders were active, paying mostly from $75-$108 and the lighter lots making $51-$71. Restocking lambs were mostly cheaper. Light weight 1 and 2 score lambs sold from $60-$76. Light trade 2 and 3 score lambs sold from $86-$108.

Trade weight 3 and 4 score lambs sold from $101-$133, ranging from 450-550c/kg cwt to average around 500c/kg. Heavy 3 and 4 score lambs sold from $121-$152 to average around 500c/kg. Heavy hoggets sold to $100.

Sheep quality was not as good over the ewe portion. Restockers purchased reasonable numbers of wethers from $59-$88. Heavier sheep sold from $5-$10 easier, with light and medium sheep, plus the wether offering, selling close to firm to $5 easier. Light weight 1 and 2 score sheep sold from $38-$75.

Medium weight 2 and 3 score sheep sold from $56-$88, ranging from 270-340c/kg cwt, to average around 310-320c/kg. Heavy 3 to 5 score sheep sold from $60-$95, with heavy Merino wethers selling from $85-$108 to average around 350c/kg. The medium Merino wethers sold from $62-$92.

Dublin’s light trade lambs lift $7-$8

In SA on Tuesday, at Dublin’s South Australian Livestock Exchange, the agents yarded 10,782 lambs, 751 more than last week, and 2737 sheep, 612 more.

The NLRS said the generally good quality crossbred lambs sold to erratic bidding from a full complement of local and interstate trade and processor buyers. Merinos were more plentiful and prices hovered around those attained last week. Feeders and restockers were very cautious and bid specifically on light weight late drop lambs.

Light weight 2 score crossbred lambs to feeders eased $5, selling from $72-$92, 3 scores to feeders remained unchanged at $100-$103. Light weight 3 score lambs to trade buyers lifted $7, selling from $90-$115 to average 504c/kg cwt. Light trade weight 4 scores lifted $8, selling from $108-$130 averaging 526c/kg. Heavy trade weights remained unchanged selling from $115-$136, averaging 501c/kg.

Heavy weights sold from $126-$146 at around 472-508c/kg cwt. Light weight 2 score Merinos sold to restockers at $40-$90. Trade weight 3 score Merinos sold from $90-$110, returning an average of 447c/kg. Heavy weights remained unchanged, selling from $100-$130, at around 433-457c/kg.

The mixed sheep yarding sold to easing processor competition despite intermittent surges as one operator joined or left the sale. Heavy weight Merino hoggets sold from $90-$103 and crossbreds made $92-$116. Light weight 2 score ewes eased $6, selling from $55-$65 and averaging 271c/kg cwt. Heavy weight 3 score ewes remained unchanged, selling from $72-$107 or 306c/kg. Few wethers were yarded, but the heavy weights sold from $80-$104. Heavy weight rams made $70-$83.

Naracoorte lambs $5-$10 cheaper

At the Naracoorte saleyards on Tuesday, the agent yarded 2673 lambs, 2579 fewer than last week, and 1848 sheep, 934 more.

The NLRS said the usual trade and processor buyers were present, but not all operated. The yarding generally lacked weight and condition, with large lines of lambs in store condition. A number of restockers bid strongly as the market sold to a softer trend.

Light weight lambs to the trade ranged from $62-$87, while light 2 and 3 score lambs sold from $89-$98, to be up to $5 easier. Restockers paid from $40-$95 for lambs to turn out, back $8-$10 on last week. Some Merino lambs ranged mainly from $63-$97.

Trade weight 3 score lambs ranged from $106-$116 at an average of 480c/kg cwt, also up to $5 easier. Heavy 4 score lambs were in short supply and ranged from $124-$142, to be $5-$10 cheaper.

Hoggets sold from $72-$95 and wethers ranged from $60-$88. Lightweight 1 and 2 score ewes sold from $52-$63, while medium weight 2 and 3 scores ranged from $72-$84 at an average of 310c/kg cwt. Heavy 3 and 4 score types ranged from $81-$100. The lighter weight ewes were a marginal $2 easier, while the heavier types were $5-$8/head cheaper. Rams mainly ranged from $33-$62.

Muchea’s heavy lambs $5-$10 dearer

In WA at the Muchea saleyards on Tuesday, the agents yarded 6000 lambs, 2500 fewer than last week, and 4498 sheep, 3502 fewer.

The NLRS said sheep and lamb numbers halved with the advent of wide spread rain. Quality was generally plain, with most lambs again light weight secondary drafts. The few prime lambs yarded were better than in recent yardings. The heavy lambs sold $3-$5 better and the trade lines were firm.

All buyers were present but there was no live export activity. Wether and ram prices remained firm on last week. Light store lambs to restockers, including moderate numbers of Merino lambs, made $10-$75 to remain firm. Light lamb to air freight processors and feeders were also firm, with most prices from $60-$86.

Trade lambs were in limited supply and were generally secondary drafts. The 18-22kg cwt trade lambs made $85-$114 and were firm, at 480-520c/kg cwt. Heavy lambs sold from $104-$132, with most sales up $5 and the extreme tops $10 dearer.

Light weight mutton drafts made $35-$62, with the 2 score mutton to processors making $60-$75 and finishing $2-$4 dearer. Better conditioned drafts, including the heavy weight supplies, sold from $69-$86 to be $1-$3 dearer at 295c/kg cwt. The ewes included some good medium and heavy weight drafts but most were in light condition.

Prices rose $1-$3 on quality mutton and $2-$4 on light boners. Wether prices were firm without live export activity. Export weight wether drafts made $65-$110 to restockers and processors and were firm. Lighter weight and store wether categories made from $68-$89 to also remain firm. Young rams were also $2-$4 dearer and ram lambs made $84-$96. Processors and export feeders paid from $53-$63 for young rams and the old rams sold firm to processors from $5-$55.

Sources: MLA, NLRS, AuctionsPlus.

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