Lamb buyers maintain pressure on prices and quality

Terry Sim, August 6, 2014

Lambs - saleyardsPressure on lamb and mutton prices continued this week at most saleyards across New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia with increasing new season lamb supplies, faltering old lamb quality and mixed processor demand.

Buyers have maintained pressure on prices on the back of maturing forward contracts, as more northern lambs are turned off and despite some works returning to operation after winter maintenance.

Mid-week, MLA’s eastern states trade lamb indicator was at 483c, the heavy lamb indicator was at 501c and the mutton indicator was at 316c.

The over-the-hook trade lamb indicator was today sitting at 568-569c/kg, well above its saleyard equivalent.

At Bendigo on Monday, MLA’s National Livestock Reporting Service said lamb numbers reduced by 2500 head into a generally cheaper market, with fewer regular buyers discounting secondary lambs with long dry-skins.

The lamb prices peaked at $162 for some 32kg lambs, with the NLRS reporting only a handful of sales over the $150/head mark.

New season lambs numbers jumped 2500, coming from the Mallee, Bendigo area and the Riverina. The top pens displayed better weight and finish compared to recent sales, and this helped to support prices with the top draft estimated at 25kg with an $8 skin making $140/head. Most 20kg new season lambs sold from $100 to $138/head, to average an estimated 520-540c/kg cwt. Light weight young lambs sold from $72 to $92/head.

Bidding for old season lambs was quality driven. Trade weight lambs with better skins made $120 to $145/head, or an estimated 490c to 530c/kg cwt. Plainly-bred and finished trade weight lambs with longer length dry-skins, and light weight slaughter lambs, were up to $10 cheaper, selling from $60 to $100/head, ranging from about 400c to 460c/kg cwt.

The recently shorn ewes and Merino wethers in the mutton pens were mostly $2 to $8 easier, with not all processors active. Heavy weight first-cross ewes made $88 to $100/head, with buyers discounting excess weight and some sales averaging 230-250c/kg cwt. The middle run of sheep made $70 to $94/head, to average around 310-320c/kg.

Cheaper price trends leading into the Dubbo market on Monday cut its yarding to 29,500 mixed quality lambs and sheep, down 25,000.

Heavy crossbred lambs dominated the yarding and Merino lambs were also well supplied in a firm to slightly dearer market.

The few new season lambs gained $3 to sell from $94 to $134/head, or an average price around the 471c to 511c/kg cwt range. Lightweight older lambs sold close to firm and trade weight lambs lifted $1 to $2 and sold from $85 to $106.20/head, or an average price from 436c to 444c/kg cwt. The Merino trade weights were dearer for quality.

Heavyweight lambs gained $2 to $3, with the lighter end making $101 to $124 and the heaviest reaching $160/head, at an average 472c to 501c/kg cwt.

Sheep numbers slipped and they sold $7 to $10/head cheaper and more in places. Medium and heavy weights ranged from $46 to $110/head, with better processing mutton averaging 250c to 320c/kg cwt. Prime heavyweight Merino wethers with a good skin value reached the $110/head mark. Restockers were also active.

At Forbes yesterday the NLRS said agents drew for 29,500 sheep and lambs, down 1450, with lambs showing the biggest drop in a mixed quality yarding for the usual buyers. Most of the 4800 new season lambs were well finished and the trade weights lifted $7 to $8, to $115 to $126/head, and the heavy lambs made to $131/head.

Old light lambs lifted $3, selling from $70 to $85/head, and trade weights were firm to $3 better, with prices ranging from $80 to $116/head. Trade and heavy weight Merino lambs sold from $76 to $126/head. Heavy and extra heavy lambs were firm to $3 better. Heavy lambs sold from $116 to $132 and extra heavy lambs received from $130 to $168/head. Carcase prices averaged from 430c to 527c/kg cwt.

Mutton numbers lifted, but prices slipped $7 a head on quality, with Merino ewes selling from $70 to $88/head. Crossbreds ranged from $65 to $90/head. Merino wethers sold from $72 to $110/head.

At Ballarat yesterday agents yarded just 4,100 lambs and 2,200 sheep, and not the buyers came either. The NLRS said any well-finished lambs sold to steady competition, but most others were firm to $5/head easier. Restockers and feeders paid to $119 for lambs and from $60 to $95/head for shorn Merino wethers.

Light weight 1 and 2 score lambs sold from $44 to $79/head. Light trade 2 and 3 score lambs sold from $72 to $110/head. Trade weight 3 and 4 score lambs sold from $100 to $140/head and ranged from 440c to 530c to average around 520c/kg cwt. Heavy 3 and 4 score lambs sold from $122 to $138/head to average around 480c/kg cwt.

Most sheep sold to $5/head easier, with heavy, over-conditioned sheep attracting little interest. Most shorn wethers went to restockers and feeders. Light weight 1 and 2 score sheep sold from $32 to $51/head with very light 1 scores making from $14 to $28/head. Medium weight 2 and 3 score sheep sold from $48 to $74/head and ranged from 200c to 330c to average around 300c/kg cwt. Heavy 3 to 5 score sheep sold from $53 to $83/head.

Crossbred wethers sold to $90, medium weight Merino wethers made $45 to $68 and lighter weights from $43 to $56/head to average around 280c/kg cwt. Rams sold from $7 to $60/head.

At South Australia’s Livestock Exchange in Dublin, the NLRS reported a reduced yarding of 7342 crossbred and Merino lambs sold to easing competition from the usual buyers. About 3000 new season lambs attracted solid trade interest, through prices eased marginally.

Lightweight 2 and 3 score new season crossbred lambs sold to feeder buyers for $64 to $100, while lightweight 4 score lambs to trade buyers eased $7, and sold from $100 to $110/head or an average of 515c/kg cwt. Light trade weight 4 score lambs eased $2, selling from $110 to $130 and averaged 534c, while a good selection of heavy trade weight 4 scores sold from $128 to $135/head to average 538c/kg cwt.

Lightweight 3 score old crossbred lambs eased up to $12 to make $85 to $100/head. Trade weight 4 score lambs eased $9, and sold from $103 to $132/head, or an average of 495c/kg cwt. Heavyweight 4 scores eased $3 to $6, and sold from $130 to $170/head, to return 506 to 540c/kg cwt.

Lightweight Merino lambs sold to restockers from $54 to $76, while light trade weight 3 score lines remained unchanged and sold from 85 to $102/head. Heavier trade weights and heavy weight lamb prices retreated, easing $2 to $5, and they sold from $90 to $115/head, and returned 411c to 431c/kg cwt.

A very small, mixed yarding of 1,580 sheep sold to subdued processor competition, while restockers paid $89 to $101/head for wethers with longer wool.

Lightweight 2 score ewes eased $4, and sold from $60 to $76 or an average of 324c/kg cwt, while heavyweight 3 scores eased $1, and sold from $79 to $108/head and averaged 327c/kg cwt. Heavy weight wethers were plentiful, and they sold from $75 to $103/head and averaged 328c/kg cwt.

At Naracoorte yesterday sheep and lamb numbers nearly halved to 1474, mainly plain to average quality stock.

Light weight lambs sold unchanged to slightly easier, but the trade weights were a further $5 to $10/head lower. Heavy export lambs remained close to firm week-on-week. The sheep market held mainly medium to heavy weights and all up they averaged $5/head cheaper.

The light weight 2 score lambs sold from $35 to $69, while light trade weight 2 and 3 scores were from $42 to $73/head.

Medium to heavy weight 3 score trade lambs made between $74 and $96/head and averaged 405c/kg cwt. Heavy weight 4 score lambs sold from $112 to $128/head and averaged 470c/kg cwt.

Medium weight 2 and 3 score sheep sold from $48 to $70, while heavy to extra heavy weight 3 to 5 scores made $60 to $90 and included the odd pen of wethers up to $75/head. A run of 2 to 4 score ewes with the wethers included averaged 275c/kg cwt. Heavy weight rams made $29 to $50, with two tooth rams to $68/head.


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