LAMB and mutton sheep prices continued to rise in saleyards early this week, as rainfall exacerbated an already tight supply situation.
Recent price rises have flushed more lambs off farms and feedlots, and numbers increased at New South Wales, Victorian and Western Australian saleyards, but demand for direct abattoir supplies was highlighted by some processors this week lifting their grid prices again.
But the National Livestock Livestock Reporting Service reported that at Bendigo on Monday, where lamb prices generally lifted $6-$15, processors were active due to some direct-to-works consignments being hampered by the rain.
At the South Australian Livestock Exchange at Dublin on Tuesday, trade lamb prices lifted by up to $25 a head and heavy lamb rates rose by almost $30, according to the NLRS, to set a new saleyard record price of $242. Other saleyard records set at Dublin included $212 for Merino lambs and $198 for wether hoggets.
A second sharp April-May seasonal lift in the Eastern States Trade Lamb Indicator — prior to any price relief for processors through plant maintenance breaks and early new season lambs — is happening about a month earlier than a similar price rise in 2016. This has raised the prospect of an extended period of tighter margins for processors facing winter operation at carcase weight prices already generally 100c/kg-plus higher than last year. However, some areas of New South Wales enjoying the strong season are expecting to market new season lambs in early July.
After Tuesday’s saleyard sales, the ESDIs for lambs are: restocker 749c/kg, down 1 cent; Merino 628c/kg, up 12c; light 674c/kg, up 18c; trade 665c/kg, up 1c; heavy 657c/kg, up 8c. The ESDI for mutton rose another 9 cents to 528c/kg.
In New South Wales at the Dubbo saleyards on Monday, the agents yarded 22,550 lambs, 310 more than last week and 8330 sheep, 2350 fewer.
The National Livestock Reporting Service said lamb quality improved. There was a good selection of well-finished trade and heavy weight lambs, and reasonable numbers of Dorpers and Merinos. There were limited opportunities for restockers to buy good quality crossbred lambs.
Demand from a full field of buyers was stronger for all classes, with market trends dearer in all categories. The 3 score trade weight lambs sold $6-$8 dearer. The plainer condition 2 score lambs also sold dearer, but the increases were not as great. The quality and finish of the heavy and extra heavy weight lambs contributed to prices lifting $8-plus.
Demand was stronger for all classes of sheep with the market trend responding positively. All classes sold dearer and recovered most of the previous sale’s losses.
At the Corowa saleyards on Monday, the agents yarded 10,600 lambs, 3950 more than last week, and 2500 sheep.
The NLRS said lamb numbers increased after recent rain. The extremely good quality yarding comprised mostly trade weights and some excellent heavy and extra heavy lambs. Agents offered 2800 Merino lambs that sold $5-$15 dearer. Restockers continued to compete with processors on the lighter or unfinished lambs.
Light trade weight lambs made $130-$160, medium trade sold from $141-$171 and the heavy trade lambs made $155-$184 to average 690c/kg cwt. Heavy lambs and extra heavy lambs sold from $165-$215. Merino lambs 22kg and above made to $168 and averaged 631c/kg. Hoggets sold to $187.
Competition was fierce for the mixed quality mutton sheep yarding. Medium 3 score Merino ewes 18-24kg sold from $126-$154. Heavy Merinos ewes made to $172 and heavy crossbred ewes sheep sold to $199. Merino wethers made $158.
At the Tamworth saleyards on Monday, the agents yarded 4839 lambs, 2089 more than last week, and 1730 sheep, 230 more.
The NLRS said lamb quality was very good in one of the best yardings penned for some time, with several large runs offered. More heavy and extra heavy lambs were offered, along with a good supply of trade weights. However, there were fewer light store lambs and a small number of Dorpers. Competition was strong, with the improved quality and weight of the lambs influencing prices.
Most lamb sales were firm to $3 dearer. The light penning of light lambs went-restockers at strong prices, with the majority going-outside areas.
It was also a fairly good quality mutton sheep yarding, with several lines of heavy sheep and a fair medium weight offering. Several pens of sheep had good fleeces. The market remained strong, with little change in prices.
At the Forbes saleyards on Tuesday, the agents yarded 29,200 lambs, 10,500 more than last week, and 6700 sheep, 3250 more.
The NLRS said lamb quality improved, with a better run of well-finished and grain-assisted lambs. Most lambs were heavy and extra heavy lines. The usual buyers competed in the dearer market.
Light lambs held steady to average $120. Trade weights were $4-$6 dearer at $128-$163. Heavy and extra heavy weights were well supplied and quality was good. Prices lifted $4-$5, with heavy lambs selling from $154-$173 and extra heavies making $163-$241. Carcase prices averaged 634-671c/kg.
Mutton sheep quality was fair, with a good number of heavy sheep offered. Prices lifted, with Merino ewes selling from $105-$190 and crossbreds from $120-$199. Dorper ewes made $91-$167. Merino wethers sold from $115-$184.
In Victoria at the Bendigo saleyards, the agents yarded 11m657 lambs, 1587 more than last week, and 2500 sheep, 95 fewer.
The NLRS said there were some good lines of crossbred lambs off grain, but quality declined quickly.
Lamb prices improved by $6-$15 across most pens. Demand was strongest for trade weight lambs, and there was reports of some processors needing extra supplies after the rain disrupted a few direct consignments. Buyers showed a preference for bigger lines of lambs, with lots of a few head not always recording the same price increases.
Prices reached $241 for heavy export lambs off grain and estimated at around 35kg cwt. There were another two pens of extra heavies at $233 and $230, followed by about 10 pens at $200-$210.
The highlight of the sale was the domestic and export competition for 22-27kg cwt lambs which consistently made more $150 and over $190 at times. On a carcase basis, most slaughter lambs were estimated at 650-680c/kg, although better quality trade lambs reached 700c/kg-plus.
Demand for light weight lambs, which were in short supply, remained very strong at $115-$140. They sold to feedlot, restocking and specialist MK export processing orders. The limited Merino lamb offering comprised mostly plainer and light weight types which also trended dearer.
The sheep yarding included only a handful of bigger lines. Prices were dearer, aside from some of the mixed lots of heavy crossbred ewes which were coming off a record high of $200 last week. Estimated carcase averages for the main lines of Merino mutton were estimated at around 550c/kg. Some small pen lots of heavy crossbred ewes sold to $190 and most sheep made 120-$160.
At the Ballarat saleyards on Tuesday, the agents yarded 26,736 lambs, 8141 more than last week, and 3799 sheep, 70 fewer.
The NLRS said lamb quality was again very good, with all weights and grades offered. The usual buyers operated keenly in a mostly firm market compared to the high levels over the past weeks.
On quality, several pens of trade weight and heavy lambs were a few dollars dearer. The best of the heavy lambs, estimated around 38kg cwt, made to $245. Agents sold 52 pens for more than $200 — a credit to local producers. Heavy 3 and 4 score lambs sold from $172.50-$210 and extra heavy export lambs made $208.50-$245.
The heavier trade weight lambs sold from $156-$176 and averaged around 680c/kg. Feeders and restockers paid from $119-$157 for lambs, with the few lighter lots selling from $80-$105. Light 2 score lambs sold to $110.
Light trade 2 and 3 score lambs made $118-$147 and averaged around 700c/kg. Trade weight 3 and 4 score lambs sold from $148-$160 and heavier weights made $156-$176, or 640-710c/kg to average 680c/kg.
Heavier Merino lambs sold from $144-$158, with the lighter drafts making $115-$135. Heavy hoggets made to $165.
The sheep yarding covered all weights and although not all the regular buyers operated, they sold to very strong demand. Most sheep sold firm to $5 dearer and more in places.
Light weight 1 and 2 score sheep sold from $78-$110. Medium weight 2 and 3 score sheep made $100-$155, or 440-590c/kg. Merino mutton averaged around 560c/kg. Heavy Merino ewes sold to $154. Heavy Merino wethers made $157-$176 and medium wethers sold for $117-$128, or 530-550c/kg cwt. Heavy crossbred wethers sold from $136-$198 and heavy crossbred ewes made $123-$196. Heavy rams sold to $166.
At the South Australian Livestock Exchange at Dublin on Tuesday, the agents yarded 9000 lambs, 3000 fewer than last week, and 2000 sheep, 500 less.
The NLRS said trade and processor buyers were extremely enthusiastic in seeking supply. Competition was intense from the opening sale, with light lambs selling to an erratic trend but gaining up to $10. Medium weight lambs lifted by as much as $20.
All weights in the trade lamb sale lifted by as much as $25. Heavy weight lambs over 26kg rose by nearly $30 and set a new saleyard record price of $242 for crossbred lambs. Restockers made no impact on the sale with all weights receiving solid trade buyer support.
Light lambs sold from $60-$130, lambs from 16-22kg made $88-$160 and trade weight lambs sold for $112-$208. Heavy export lambs sold from $176 for Merino types up to $242 for crossbreds. Light hoggets sold from $80-$136 and heavy weights made $121-$198.
The mutton sheep offering was of extremely mixed quality, but prices lifted by up to $10. A pen of bare shorn wether hoggets made $198. Light ewes sold from $88-$164 with heavy weights ranging from $135-$154. Light rams ranged from $105-$148 with heavy rams trading from $136-$160. Several saleyard records were broken, including $212 for Merino lamb and $198 for wether hoggets. A run of young Merino ewes sold for $144.
At the Naracoorte saleyards on Tuesday, the agents yarded 2019 lambs, 609 fewer than last week, and 1341 sheep, 273 more.
The NLRS said fewer trade and processor buyers attended, but they provided strong competition and there was some restocker support for lighter lambs. The lamb offering was very mixed with all weights and grades offered.
Lamb prices improved by $5-$10. Light weight lambs sold to the trade for $84-$130, with light weight trade 2 and 3 score lambs making $115-$130. Restockers paid $86-$130 for suitable lines.
Trade weight 3 score lambs were in short supply and made to $145 and Merino lines sold to $124. Heavy lambs made $160-$172 and extra heavy export lines sold from $182-$219, lifting by up to $15. Hoggets made $126-$140.
Light weight ewes sold from $63-$86. Medium weight ewes made $110-$140 and heavy lines sold from mainly $143-$175. A restocker bought ewes with marked lambs for $188. Rams sold from $86-$134.
In Western Australia at the Muchea saleyards on Tuesday, the agents yarded 7500 lambs, 177 more than last week, and 2600 sheep, 1400 fewer.
The NLRS said the reduction in prime stock created very solid competition on better finished types.
Trade and heavy lambs improved $2-$4, with the best heavy weights making to $185. Hoggets were up by $5. The air freight lambs and ram lamb hoggets sold firm.
Heavy lambs 23kg cwt-plus sold from $155-$168 and extreme heavy weights made to $185. The 20-22kg lambs sold from $132-$150. The 18-20kg lines made $125-$132, all up $2-$4. Airfreight types 15-17kgs made $82-$125 to remain firm.
In the store lamb section, feeders paid $35-$65 for plain light crossbred lambs. Young Merino ewe lambs sold to restockers for $73-$127, depending on quality and size. Young light Merino wether lambs up to 17kg cwt sold mainly from $107-$114 to live export fatteners. The trade paid to $160 for finished heavy Merino wether lambs and to $148 for heavy ewe lambs. The hoggets were mainly Merinos that made $120-$143 for best heavies, to be more than $5 dearer. Prime heavy ram lambs sold for $147 to processors and unfinished types made $50-$106.
Best heavy mutton sheep sold firm at $120-$140, depending on skins. The 30kg bare shorn lines sold for $120. Those sold to processors eased $5-$8. Processors paid $45-$85 for light weight sheep and $95-$125 for heavier types up to 23kg cwt.
Wether prices fell $2-$4 due to reduced competition and ewes sold %-$8 easier to processors, with considerably more of these types penned. Wethers remained firm, with best heavies making mainly $125, up to $157 for the top lines with $30 fleece. Light weight wethers sold from $105-$119 to live exporters. The ram market was again firm, with processors paying $40-$100, depending on age.
In the northern Tasmanian saleyards at Powranna and Killafaddy on Tuesday, the agents yarded 1800 lambs, 170 more than last week, and 1570 sheep, 350 more.
The NLRS said most lamb prices were similar, with processors and restockers keen for their share of the offering.
Restockers paid $114-$128 for light trade lambs and $119-$132 for trade pens. The trade paid $117-$123 for light trade lambs and $124-$145 for heavier trade weights. Exporters paid $133-$157 for heavy lambs and $151-$179 for extra heavy pens.
The mutton sheep offered had less weight, but prices remained at a similar level to previous weeks. Very light sheep made $62-$88, light lines $78-$110 and medium weight drafts sold for $90-$140. Heavy sheep sold from $134-$150.
Sources: MLA, NLRS, AuctionsPlus.