Lamb buyers change teams as saleyard prices hit new heights + VIDEOS

Terry Sim, August 31, 2018

The Wagga Wagga Landmark team sells lambs for a new Australian record of $337.20 yesterday.

EXPORTERS and supermarkets are scrambling buyers nationally as new season lamb prices hit 1000c/kg and heavy export weight old lambs sell for up to $337.20 this week.

Export and domestic sheep meat processors are attempting to compensate for lamb kill shortfalls with mutton, as their buyers compete for the few heavier new season lambs and quality old lambs coming into saleyards.

Dubbo-based processor and exporter Fletcher International Exports is now looking to base a buyer in South Australia for the first time with national newspaper advertisements over the past two weeks.

Other companies are also reassessing and building their buying teams, with former Thomas Foods International buyer and lamb-buying veteran Andrew Hay moving to Woolworths, former Coles buyer Mark Randell shifting to JBS Australia, JBS’ Riverina buyer Gavin Halden moving to Coles and his brother, former RLA Wagga agent Brendan Halden, now buying for JBS.

In an effort to attract more direct consignments, some exporters have released contract prices for early September of 840c/kg for 18-26kg and 820c/kg for 26-32kg lambs.

However, these prices are still well below most prices being paid for 18kg-plus cwt new lambs being sold in saleyards and under most prices recently paid for 22kg-plus old lambs.

Heavy lamb prices hit $US record

The National Livestock Reporting Service said the Eastern States Trade Lambs Indicator finished 8 cents up on 878c/kg yesterday, 245 cents higher than at this time last year. The heavy lamb indicator rose 16 cents to 914c/kg, up 296 cents than last year. The other lamb indicators and their changes yesterday were: restocker lamb 877c/kg, up 29 cents; Merino lambs 749c/kg, up 3 cents and light lamb 758c/kg, up 8 cents. The mutton indicator was up 7 cents to 470c/kg.

In a currency comparison of current indicators, MLA said yesterday’s Eastern States Heavy Lamb Indicator has surpassed its peak in 2011 in US dollars. The indicator last peaked in March 2011 at US643c/kg cwt (or A622c/kg cwt), while the surge in prices over the last week put it at US667c/kg cwt (or A914c/kg cwt) last night – a new record in $US.

This is not the case for Eastern States Trade Lamb Indicator. It peaked in April 2011 at US677c/kg cwt (A621c/kg cwt), well above its current US$ level of US641c/kg at 878c/kg in Australian dollars.

NSW new season lamb turn-off lagging

The National Livestock Reporting Service this week outlined the extent of the delay in the new season lamb turn-off into New South Wales saleyards, due to a combination of lower marking rates and producers struggling to finish stock to sale-ready weights.

For the first three weeks of August this year, just under 57,400 new season lambs had been sold through Meat & Livestock Australia-reported saleyards in NSW – down 51 percent from the same time last year, and representing 26pc of total NSW lamb saleyard throughput for the period. Last year, there were almost 117,400 new season lambs sold across NSW saleyards in the first three weeks of August – making up 35pc of total NSW lamb yardings for the period.

New national record heavy lamb and sucker prices

At the Wagga Wagga saleyards yesterday, Landmark sold 30 Poll Dorset lambs for a new national record of $337.20 to Fletcher International Exports (FIE), for Euongilly producers John and Helen Martin. They were estimated to have a carcase weight of 37-38kg.

Wagga Landmark agent Ned Balharrie said domestic and export buyers can’t find enough finished lambs within their grids.

The new national record of $320 for new season lambs was set by the RH Blake and Co agency at Wagga Wagga yesterday. Agency co-principal Mark Logan said Gordon and Wayne Rodham from Uranquinty south of Wagga sold the 29 February-March drop Poll Dorset cross lambs, which were fresh off their mothers, but also on feeders. The lambs were bought by FIE and had an estimated carcase weight of 33-34kg with a $10-$11 skin, bringing them out at about 910-940c/kg cwt.

Mr Logan said the Rodhams also sold another 57 lambs for $306 to FIE and the 31 thirds made $288.20 with Junee. The Rodhams’ 117 lambs averaged $305.

He said there were still not enough numbers of new season lambs coming in for supermarkets to switch entirely over from old lambs.

“They (exporters and supermarkets) clash on the top end of the suckers and the bottom end of the export weights, because the supermarkets are into bigger weights now – from 21-22kg into 24-25kg.”

However, he said butchers and restaurants were doing less lambs due to the higher prices.

Mr Logan said lighter lambs also sold to stronger demand at Wagga, with a client’s 2100 32-33kg lwt lambs – Merino and White Suffolk cross – averaged around $103.

“There is probably money to made out of them if you can feed them.”

Wagga’s prices today followed from Griffith agents Spencer & Bennett-Yenda Producers last week setting the previous national record price of $324 for 43 heavy lambs and Wagga’s Landmark agents selling 56 Poll Dorset cross new season lambs for $292 to Junee from Michael Hansell at Collingullie that were estimated at 29kg cwt. Mr Hansell also sold 44 new season lambs for $300.60 yesterday.

Wagga sucker numbers building

At the Wagga saleyards yesterday, the agents yarded 29,000 lambs, 1000 fewer than last week. However, the NLRS said new season lamb numbers continue to climb as producers brace for dry conditions following another week of no rain across the supply area.

Quality over heavy lamb categories was good; however, the number of lambs weighing above 26kg cwt were again limited. Trade lamb quality continued to be mixed given the pressure of the season. There were 12,800 new season lambs, with good numbers of trade and heavy types suiting domestic and export orders. All light lambs sold to stronger demand from processors and restockers.

The trade market sold to strong demand with buyers forced to pay premiums for lambs with shape and finish. Generally, new season and old lambs sold $4-$8 dearer. Most new season trade lambs made $178-$249.60, to average 955c/kg. Old trade lambs sold from $152-$238, to average 933c/kg cwt. Store lambs varied in price depending on breed and weight, with most making $98-$156. New season heavy and extra heavy lambs ignited the bidding, with the top pens pushing above 1000c/kg. Most heavy new season lambs sold from $265-$320. Heavy and extra heavy trade lambs sold from $253-$337.20, averaging 960c/kg cwt.

In a mixed quality offering of mutton, the market gained up to $39 for heavy sheep, with numerous sales above $200. Heavy sheep recorded a top price of $209.60 to average 485-514c/kg. Trade sheep were well-supplied, making $73-$134 and averaging 454c/kg. Light sheep made $54-$88.

At the Dubbo saleyard earlier in the week, the Christie and Hood team sold a pen of second-cross Dorset lambs for $310 for district clients Brad and Emma Tink.


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