Grid rates for lambs lifted this week as saleyard prices rose in a predictable pre-Christmas rush for fresh quality trade and heavy lambs by domestic and export processors.
But seasonal conditions – rainfall and stock water on properties – and the viability of restockers feedlotting or stubble-finishing lambs are looming as the big issues set to affect quality lamb supplies in early 2015.
This week’s first two days of saleyard sales, the last for the year, also reflected the ongoing strong domestic and export demand for lamb, with the National Livestock Reporting Service’s eastern daily and national indicators increasing for all lamb categories except Merinos.
On Monday the quality 22kg-plus lambs sold for 570c/kg at Dubbo and Hamilton’s best trade lambs ranged from 540-580c/kg cwt. Bendigo’s better shorn lambs made 540-580c/kg with a heavy 31-32kg line making $171.20 or around 530c/kg and most made 520-525c/kg cwt. Ballarat’s trade lambs ranged from 500-570c/kg cwt.
After Tuesday’s saleyard sales, the National Livestock Reporting Service’s Eastern States Daily Indicators for lamb were: restocker, 527c/kg cwt, up 6 cents; Merinos, 479c/kg, down 7c; light 511c/kg, up 8c; trade, 536c/kg, up 8c; heavy, 541c/kg, up 8c. The mutton indicator was at 324c/kg, up four cents.
The national trade lamb indicator was up eight cents to 536c/kg and the heavy lamb indice was at 541c/kg, up three cents. The national mutton indicator was at 325c/kg, up four cents.
Sourcing quality to be a problem in 2015
Elders Bendigo agent Greg Harrington said although some of his clients specialised in having lambs finished between Christmas and New Year for processors, sourcing quality supplies would become more of a problem in the New Year.
“It is quality they are chasing and that is going to be the next hardest problem we are coming up against.
“Once we get rid of the shorn lambs there is going to be a gap in the quality, for sure,” he said.
“A lot of these lambs have come off the back of pretty good rains in some areas.
“North of Bendigo some of the lucerne-growing areas have had up to three inches of rain,” he said.
“Once that is over and gone it will be back to feeding lambs and who has got the feed to feed them.”
Stock water scarce north of Bendigo
Mr Harrington said stock water is going to be a major problem north of Bendigo in an area from St Arnaud to Bendigo, from the Loddon Valley Highway probably right through to Kerang.
“It is looming as one of the bigger problems we’ve got for their breeding ewes and for anybody trying to fatten lambs.
“We’ve had another year of continuous rain of 5-10 millimetres, but no big rains to run water.”
Mr Harrington said the early contracts of around 520c/kg cwt for January-delivery lambs have been filled and the physical market has probably exceeded that in the last 10 days. Though he said it was debatable whether saleyard prices had run ahead of grid prices before then.
“I kill 90 percent of my lambs over the hooks and most of the blokes who have hooked lambs over a period of time, don’t look at the high prices, they look at their average over the 12-month period.
“My experience for the last five years, over a 12-month period, my hook lamb prices would be more consistent than the saleyards, by a considerable margin; I would say every bit of 20 cents, maybe up to 30 cents a kilogram (cwt),” he said.
“You get paid for what you’ve got if you hook them and you can take them to market and pick up $10-$15 this week and next week you can drop $20.
“If you’ve got the right article you will get paid consistently (over the hook).”
The over-the-hook price came into its own on dry-skinned lambs that would be discounted in a saleyard, he said.
Sellers waiting for 2015 lamb contracts
Mr Harrington believed supermarket contracts of around 530c/kg cwt had been filled.
“It will be a wait-and-see job for what comes out over the New Year.”
He had not heard of any contracts for lamb delivery after January 2015, but most of his feeder clients were lotfeeding lambs on a 40-day rotation, budgeting on prices of around 550c/kg cwt for slaughter lambs delivered in April-May.
“At the present moment, it is hard to buy a lamb in the range we need to, but I bought a lot of lambs early and a lot out of the paddock.”
Mallee lambs to come back in February-March
Mr Harrington said he had been told a lot of lambs had been put back out onto Mallee stubble and growth boosted by thunderstorms, to return for marketing in February-March. Though this will depend on rainfall affecting farmers’ crop spraying programs and whether they have grain on hand to feedlot lambs.
“The general consensus of opinion is that in February-March you might see a bit of a drop-off in the price because supply will be coming back.
“A lot of those lambs might not be fully finished so there might be opportunities for feeders to buy some lambs that are forward in condition but not quite good enough to kill.”
He believed the competition between restockers and processors for the 12-18kg dressed weight lamb would continue.
OTH lamb rates follow saleyard prices up
In NSW, the NLRS quoted over-the-hook prices for lamb as slightly higher this week, after a late week surge in saleyard prices last week. Mutton prices also lifted marginally from a couple of contributors.
The average OTH rates for 2-4 score lambs in NSW are: 18-20kg, 501c/kg cwt, up 5 cents; 20-22kg, 505c/kg, up 5c; 22-24kg, 504c/kg, up 3c; 24-26kg, 497c/kg, up 1c; 26kg+, 496c/kg, up 1c; Merinos 16-22kg, 438c/kg, no change. The average 2-4 score mutton rates are: 14-18kg, 252c/kg, up 3c; 18-24kg, 288c/kg, up 2c; 24kg+, 293c/kg, up 6.
All Victorian lamb grid prices rise
In Victoria, the NLRS said over-the-hook lamb rates were dearer across all categories this week, with light, trade and heavy weight carcases reaching a top of 520c/kg cwt. The majority of contributors kept mutton rates unchanged. No trend is reported due to a major contributor not quoting this week, the NLRS said.
The average OTH rates for 2-4 score lambs in Victoria are: 16-18kg, 4585c/kg; 18-22kg, 503c/kg; 22-24kg, 520c/kg; 24-26kg, 500c/kg; 26kg+, 480c/kg; Merinos 16-22kg, 435c/kg. The average 2-4 score mutton rates are: 14-18kg, 275c/kg; 18-24kg, 290c/kg; 24kg+, 293c/kg.
SA heavy and trade lamb grid rates up
In South Australia, the NLRS quoted over-the-hook lamb prices as slightly dearer across most categories this week, while light weight and Merino lamb carcase rates remained firm. The majority of contributors left mutton rates unchanged.
The average OTH rates in SA for 2-4 score lambs are: 16-18kg, 500c/kg, nc; 18-24kg, 507c/kg, up 3c; 24-26kg, 493c/kg, up 3c; Merinos 16-22kg, 460c/kg. The average 2-4 score mutton rates are: 14-18kg, 233c/kg; 18-24kg, 300c/kg.
WA lamb grid rates lift up to 17 cents
In Western Australia, the NLRS quoted rises in all the over-the-hook lamb categories and mutton rates as unchanged.
The average OTH rates in WA for 2-4 score lambs are: 16-18kg, 440c/kg, up 10c; 18-22kg, 480c/kg, up 17c; 22-26kg, 485c/kg, up 15c; 26kg+, 463c/kg, up 7c; Merinos 16-22kg, 420c/kg, up 13c. The average 2-4 score mutton rates are: 14-18kg, 235c/kg; 18-24kg, 257c/kg; 24kg+, 257c/kg.
Dubbo’s heavy lambs hit 570c/kg cwt
On Monday in NSW at the Dubbo saleyards, the agents yarded 12,500 lambs, 3970 fewer than last week, and 9500 sheep, 2500 fewer than last year.
The NLRS said Dubbo’s last sale for the year produced a mixed yarding of lambs with some very good runs of heavy weights and only limited numbers of trade weights. There were also fair numbers of lighter weight lambs. A full field of buyers created a solid market.
Lightweight lambs were $3-$6 dearer with the 12-18kg 2 scores selling from $67-$88. Trade lambs were $8-$12 dearer with 18-22kg new season lambs selling from $96-$128. Trade weight old lambs sold from $89-$132 to average 550c/kg cwt. Heavy weight lambs were $8-$13 dearer with the over 22kg old lambs selling from $125-$176 to average 570c/kg cwt. Merino lambs were $12 dearer with trade weights selling from $88-$115, while the heavier weights sold to $127. Restockers paid to $96 and hoggets sold to $117.
Most weights and grades were represented in a fair quality yarding of mutton. Light weight ewes were $3 dearer, while the medium and heavy weight ewes and wethers were $5-$9 dearer. The 2 score ewes sold from $33-$69, while the 3 and 4 scores sold from $58-$109 for crossbreds and to $105 for Merinos. The 3 and 4 score Merino wethers sold from $74-$104. The next Dubbo sheep and lamb sale is on January 5, 2015.
Tamworth lambs $5-$10 dearer
At the Tamworth saleyards on Monday, the agents yarded 2745 lambs, 115 fewer than last week, and 2035 sheep, 895 more.
The NLRS said the quality of the lambs was generally good with some very good quality trade and heavyweights penned. Demand was strong from the regular buyers, leading into a three-week break from sales. Market trends were dearer through all weight classes. Restockers were active on well-bred second cross lambs. however that activity fell away on secondary quality lots.
Young lambs to the trade sold $5-$10 dearer. The shorn lambs to the trade experienced similar increases.
There was a much larger supply of heavy lambs with the best carrying more weight than the previous week. Market trends were also dearer, up to $10, with the extra weight adding to some price improvement.
Some well-finished ewes and wethers were offered. There was little change in the market for the better medium and heavy sheep. Plain condition and secondary quality ewes sold to a slightly cheaper trend. A single pen of wethers carrying full 12 months wool topped the market with restockers competing strongly with processors.
Forbes mutton firm to $3 dearer
At the Forbes saleyards on Tuesday, the agents yarded 19,120 lambs, 2520 more than last week, and 11,050 sheep, 1700 more.
The NLRS said lamb quality continued to be fair, with good numbers of finished lambs. Most of the offering was heavy and extra heavy shorn lambs. The usual buyers competed in a dearer market.
New season lambs lifted $4-$5, with trade and heavy weights ranging from $100-$139. Light old lambs sold from $89-$99. Trade weights were $4-$6 dearer, from $105-$126. Heavy and extra heavy lambs were $5-$7 dearer and more in places. Heavy lambs sold from $126-$138 and extra heavy weights made $137-$188. Carcase prices averaged from 520c/kg-554c/kg cwt.
The sheep were mostly mixed quality Merino ewes. Prices were firm to $3 dearer. Merino ewes sold from $72-$110. Crossbred ewes ranged from $70-$110 and Dorper ewes made $64-$99. Merino wethers sold from $78-$106.
Inverell lambs sell to $170
At the Inverell saleyards on Tuesday, the agents yarded 1200 lambs, 692 fewer than last week, and 729 sheep, 615 fewer.
The NLRS said lamb quality was good in Tamworth’s last sale for the year. Trade lambs were well-supplied and there were several pens of heavy lambs. Competition was stronger with most lambs selling $10 dearer. Heavy young lambs sold to a top of $170 and heavy old lambs sold to a top of $150. Dorper lambs sold to a top of $150.
The sheep were mainly of medium weight ewes and wethers, with several lots carrying a good skin. The market was again strong, with ewes selling to $85 and wethers to $100.
Best Bendigo shorn lambs 540-580c/kg cwt
In Victoria at the Bendigo saleyards on Monday, the agents yarded 18,925 lambs, 4659 more than last week, and 19,958 sheep, 558 more.
The NLRS said competition across all categories of lamb and mutton was strong in the last sale for the year. Most lamb sales were $3-$10 dearer, with well-presented young shorn lambs attracting the best competition. Bidding on longer wool young lambs was more selective amid reports carcase yields from the drier skinned lambs have declined. The supply of heavy export lambs was limited, and about a dozen pens of 28-30kg shorn lambs sold from $160-$171.20. The sheep sale was firm to dearer on last week’s improved prices. There was a charity pen of lambs donated to help the family of a young local girl battling cancer, and buyers showed some Christmas spirit by paying $360.
Bidding for light weight lambs was strong, fuelled by processors and restockers. The better bred and presented light 16-20kg lambs were a highlight of the sale and sold from $84-$118. Prices for several pens of light domestic Merino lambs also showed considerable price improvement.
The lead drafts of slaughter lambs generally sold from $125-$150 to exporters and the major domestic processors. There were only limited sales above $160 and the market peaked at $171.20. The majority of the quality shorn lambs were estimated at 540c/kg-580c/kg, slightly ahead of the young longer wool lambs at 530c/kg-560c/kg cwt.
The sheep yarding included several runs of extra heavy ewes, which benefited from strong export orders. Heavy Merino ewes in a big skin sold to $110, while the top pens of extra heavy first-cross ewes made $96-$110. The lead runs of Merino wethers sold from $100-$115. The general run of ewes sold from $65-$90. The quality kill sheep were estimated at 300c/kg-330c/kg cwt.
Hamilton trade lambs 540-570c/kg cwt
At Hamilton on Monday, the agents yarded 13,650 lambs, 6512 more than the previous Monday sale.
The NLRS said overall quality was not as good in Hamilton’s last Monday split sale for 2015, with less weight and condition in lambs that ranged from 14-26kg cwt. The better quality lines sold at the best prices. There was a slightly reduced field of buyers and also fewer restockers.
Light lambs again sold well as prices lifted a further $3-$5, to range from 470c/kg-550c/kg cwt, with processors making it hard for the store buyers from Horsham, Echuca, north central Victoria and local areas. Light 1 and 2 score lambs made from $45-$91. Processors were also active on trade lambs, paying from 540c/kg-570c/kg cwt, or an average 555c/kg cwt. Medium trade weight 2 and 3 score and heavy trade 3 and 4 score lambs were $4-$8 dearer. Light trade 2 and 3 score lambs sold from $78-$105. Medium trade weight 3 score lambs sold from $90-$135. Heavy weight lambs made from $143-$155. Heavy 24kg-plus lambs were firm to $2-$3 dearer.
Old lambs, 22-26kg cwt, sold from $93-$116, ranging around 390c/kg-460c/kg cwt. A couple of pens of hoggets sold from $100-$120 making from 370c/kg-430c/kg cwt.
Ballarat heavy trade lambs sell to 570c/kg cwt
At the Ballarat saleyards on Tuesday, the agents yarded 40,434 lambs, 508 fewer than last week, and 17,797 sheep, 1857 more.
The NLRS said the usual buyers operated strongly in a dearer market, with most lambs selling $2-$7 dearer. Quality was good, although some lambs with longer skins were starting to show dryness. More shorn lambs were yarded again this week.
The trade weight lambs sold from $112-$135, or around 530c/kg-540c/kg cwt, while the heavy shorn lambs sold to $165, or around 540c/kg cwt. Restockers paid mostly from $77-$110.60.
Light weight 1 and 2 score lambs sold from $66-$95. Light weight 2 and 3 score lambs sold from $89-$114 and the heavier drafts made $100-$125. Trade weight 2 and 3 score lambs sold from $115-$132 and the heavier lots made $126-$143.50, ranging from 500c/kg-570c/kg cwt, to average around 535c/kg cwt. Heavy 3 and 4 score lambs sold from $138-$158 and averaged around 530c/kg cwt. Heavy hoggets sold from $85-$123.50.
There were more crossbred ewes penned and quality was average to good. The usual buyer operated. The heavy sheep generally selling at firm levels and the medium and lighter sheep were $2-$4 up on last week. Light weight 1 and 2 score sheep sold from $34-$74. Medium weight 2 and 3 score sheep sold from $57-$86 or from 270c/kg-350c/kg cwt, to average around 310c/kg cwt. Heavy 3 to 5 score sheep sold from $72-$106. Heavy Merino wethers sold from $78-$110 with the medium weights made $55-$81, or around 310c/kg-320c/kg cwt. The next Ballarat sale is on January 6.
Mutton ewe prices fall at Naracoorte
In SA at the Naracoorte saleyards on Tuesday, the agents yarded 4513 lambs, 913 more than last week, and 4790 sheep, 395 more.
The NLRS said there was a full range of trade and processor buyers as well as a number of restockers.
Very light lambs ranged from $20-$70, with restockers active from $26-$86. Prices for light weight fell $8-$10 to range from $65-$92, with restockers paying $76-$88. Light weight trade 2 and 3 score lambs were firm at $82-$110. Trade weight 3 score lambs rose by an average of $4, to sell from $94-$122, or 495c/kg cwt.
There were more heavy 4 score lambs this week and their prices also rose $4 to $120-$140, to average 520c/kg. The few extra heavy lambs made to $148.
Ewe prices fell by 20c/kg cwt to around 310c/kg cwt. Light weight 1 and 2 score ewes made from $24-$65. Medium weight 2 and 3 score ewes ranged from $58-$86 and the heavy 4 and 5 score lines made $85-$105. The few wethers offered made $98-$101. A large number of rams made $12-$35.
Lamb prices ease at Dublin
At the SA Livestock Exchange in Dublin on Tuesday, the agents yarded 7000 lambs, and 3500 sheep, 500 fewer.
The NLRS said the generally good quality yarding of crossbred and Merino lambs sold to weaker competition from the usual trade and processor buyers. Agents were very active on very light and light weight crossbreds at prices above last week’s high levels.
Light weight 1 score crossbred lambs sold to feeders from $38-$72, light weight 2 scores lifted a further $4 selling from $69-$112, and light weight 3 scores to feeders made $91-$107. Light weight 3 score crossbreds to trade buyers eased $5, selling from $98-$112, averaging 520c/kg cwt. The lighter trade weight 4 scores eased $6 to $110-$131, averaging 530c/kg cwt. Heavier trade weights eased $6 and sold from $115-$137 to average 530c/kg cwt. Heavy weight 4 scores eased $4 to $130-$145, averaging 526c/kg cwt. The extra heavy weights sold to $155.
Light weight Merino lambs attracted restocker bidding from $27-$66 and the 3 score trade weights lifted a marginal $2 to $80 to $101, averaging 445c/kg cwt. The heavy weight Merinos sold from $120-$140 to average 424c/kg cwt.
Heavy weight Merino hoggets sold from $90-$112 and crossbreds made up to $110.
The sheep sold to easing processor demand and there was little restocker demand. Light weight 2 score ewes to processors remained unchanged selling from $55-$81 and averaged 262c/kg cwt.
Heavyweight 3 score ewes eased $8 selling from $70-$91, averaging 282c, while heavy weight wethers eased $2 to $81-$92, or around 311c/kg cwt. Heavyweight rams sold from $52-$81.
Lack of finished prime lambs at Muchea
In WA at the Muchea saleyards on Tuesday, the agents yarded 9000 lambs, 1754 more than last week, and 10,325 sheep, 1825 more.
The NLRS said lamb quality was reasonable, but there was a lack of prime drafts with most in forward store condition and of lighter weight. Buyers were active across the yarding, attempting to secure adequate numbers with the next sale on the January 6.
Live export interest remained strong on wether lamb and wether drafts. Prices remained strong with most holding firm, while the lighter weight lamb categories lifted slightly as processors and restockers competed on suitable lines.
Very light and store lambs, including Merino drafts, made $34-$65 to restockers. The better framed and conditioned light lamb drafts were purchased by feeders, live export and processors, were marginally dearer at $70-$94. Trade lambs sold from $92-$118, with most firm to $3 dearer and realising close to 510c/kg cwt. Heavier lambs made $110-$128.50.
The sheep included some good medium and heavy weights, but there were good numbers of light weight and light conditioned drafts. Heavy ewes sold marginally easier, but lighter conditioned and plain drafts were slightly dearer. Light weight ewes made $43-$56, with 2 score mutton to processors making $50-$75 to mostly finish $1-$3 easier. The 3 and 4 score ewes, including heavy weight drafts, made $62-$94 with most sales $1-$3 dearer. Young ewes to restockers made $41-$80 and remained close to firm.
Wether prices were solid, driven by processor, restocker and live export demand. Light wethers to restockers made $50-$63 and better-framed wethers to live export and feeders made $65-$85. Heavier weight wethers to live export made $75-$90 and a limited number sold to processors from $74-$105. Rams also sold well, with ram lambs making to $97 and young drafts to live export and feeders $45-$75. Old rams to processors made from $35-$45.
Sources: MLA, NLRS, AuctionsPlus.