Lamb and mutton prices fell further in saleyards late last week, despite falls in numbers at the Victorian and NSW centres that operated on Friday.
However, rain in south-west, central and eastern Victoria and south-eastern NSW in the past week is expected to assist producers looking to hold stock for finishing, tightening supplies into saleyards in coming weeks.
But Landmark national livestock market manager Mark Barton said the need for cashflow was still a major driver for sheep and lambs into markets.
“While there has been an easing in some seasons, there are areas in south-western NSW and a large area of NSW that are still reasonable but not great.
“But coupled with the need for cashflow, we are still seeing numbers steadily hitting the market.”
Mr Barton said the pressure had come off supplies to processors recently.
“Due to their forward supply arrangements, they’ve probably seen an opportunity to ease their buying in saleyards to fill their numbers each week.”
Mr Barton said there were some pre-Christmas contracts where a few lambs were bought up, but with the season drying off in again in some areas, there has been a steady flow of stock into markets.
“Supply has reasonably easy to get so they have taken that opportunity to ease the market back a little.”
But Mr Barton said the general feeling in the industry was that the market had no choice but to continue to firm from May to June.
“So if you are in a position to do it, I would say hang onto your lambs for sure.”
Market finds new level, but 550-600c/kg cwt on horizon
Mr Barton said the market had found a new level.
“But 550-600c/kg cwt has definitely go to be on the radar over the next three months, hasn’t it?”
He hasn’t seen any forward contracts for March to June supply, but some clients have been talking to processors. He has had “loose discussions” with processors on “where it won’t get below from March right through till June”.
“With 600c/kg cwt as the high point and 550c/kg cwt as the low point, we reckon we are both going to make money at around 550c/kg cwt.
“I reckon I will be selling lambs in March at probably 530-550c/kg cwt and then I think we will lock in April, May and June around the same time,” he said.
“To see a market somewhere in the mid-500c/kg range as we head into the autumn months, I think is a realistic measure of the market at the moment.
“Anyone buying store lambs or lambs to put on feed is going to need those sort of rates to make the numbers tack up.”
Mr Baton believes there are a few producers with lambs sitting back to see how the market goes, but a lot of clients do still need to sell lambs because of cashflow,” he said.
“Season is allowing people the ability to make a choice.”
Restocker indicator lifts
The National Livestock Reporting Service’s Eastern States Daily Indicator for restocker lambs was the only indice to record a positive change after Friday’s saleyards sales. The restocker indicator lifted six cents to 554c/kg cwt, though it still fell 19 cents for the week.
The other lamb ESDIs, their daily and weekly falls are: Merinos, 490c/kg, down 5 cents daily and 37 cents weekly; light, 528c/kg, down 4 cents and 29 cents; trade, 539c/kg, down 4 cents and 31 cents; heavy, 544c/kg, down 7 cents and 44 cents. The national trade lambs indicator lost five cents to close on 539c/kg and the heavy lamb indice lost seven cents to 545c/kg.
After Friday’s saleyard sales, the mutton ESDI was unchanged to close on 351c/kg, but lost 13 cents for the week. The national mutton indicator was down one cent to 349c/kg.
AuctionsPlus number lift
AuctionsPlus offered sheep and lamb offered climbed by a solid 16,000 to 67,800 head last week, with 44,000 in Tuesday’s two sales placing pressure on prices.
AuctionsPlus market operations officer Anna Adams said while numbers sold at auction declined, the benefit of having a high bidder to negotiate with was taken advantage of and many lots were sold under negotiation.
Prices for young unjoined Merino ewes softened slightly, selling from $75.50 to a top of $130 for Lone Pine blood ewes in central NSW, Ms Adams said. Young joined ewes sold from $94-$142, with the top price being for two-year-old Haddon Rig blood ewes scanned to White Suffolk. Aged ewes made $62.50-$138.50.
Ms Adams said store lamb prices online showed less movement than other physical marketplaces have reported, although clearance rates reduced. In the regular sales, 31-33kg liveweight first and second cross lambs made $82-$94, and 35-37kg lwt lambs sold from $84-$100. The top price of $109 was for 38.4kg lwt (16.4cwt) shorn Poll Dorset/Merino lambs in southern NSW.
In the Farm Gate Store Lamb sale on Thursday, first cross ewe lambs made $107.50-$120.50 and lambs weighing over 40kg made $107.50-$119 averaging 629c/kg carcase weight equivalent going back to the paddock.
Merino wether lambs sold from $59-$80 to average $66, and grown wethers made $50-$70.
Heavy lambs $10-$15 cheaper at Griffith
In NSW at the Griffith saleyards on Friday, the agents yarded 9300 lambs, 2500 fewer than last week, and 2300 sheep, 1200 less.
The NLRS said lamb quality was again fair with good numbers of well-finished lambs offered, including heavy and extra heavyweight lines. The usual buyers competed in a cheaper market.
Light lambs slipped $7 to sell from $88-$98. Trade weights were $7-$10 easier, from $98-$125. Heavy and extra heavyweight lambs were $10-$15 cheaper and up to $20 in places. Heavy lambs sold from $128-$140 and extra heavy weights made $145-$183. Carcase prices averaged from 514c/kg-565c/kg cwt.
The sheep were mostly mixed quality Merinos. Prices eased $4 with Merino ewes selling from $84-$117. Crossbred ewes made from $72-$117 and Merino wethers reached $126.
Heavy lambs up to $17 cheaper at Cowra
In the Cowra saleyards on Friday, the agents yarded 4350 lambs, 7324 fewer than last week and 110 sheep, 1390 less.
The NLRS said lamb quality was not to the standard of previous weeks, with more lambs showing signs of dryness. There were mainly heavy lambs penned along with a handy run of trade weights. Store lambs were limited in supply. All the usual buyers operated in a cheaper market.
Light lambs to the processors sold from $73-$85 while store lambs averaged $69. Medium and heavy trade weights were $9-$11 cheaper and averaged from 490c/kg-510c/kg cwt. Most of the heavy trade weight lambs sold from $112-$118. Heavy weight lambs were $8-$13 and up to $17 cheaper in places averaging 507c/kg-536c/kg cwt. A few pens of extra heavy lambs sold from $160-$170.
Sheep quality was very mixed. Medium Merino ewes were firm and averaged $83.90 or 337c/kg cwt. Heavy first cross ewes were $8 cheaper and averaged $102 or 309c/kg cwt
Limited quality supply at Shepparton
In Victoria at the Shepparton saleyards, the agents yarded 1200 lambs, 2000 fewer than last week, and 700 sheep, 500 less.
The NLRS said the lambs were generally plain quality with many mixed and small pen lots. Not all the usual meat buyers attended and the market was cheaper by up to $15.
Bidding reached $170 for a line of export lambs estimated to have a carcase weight of 29-30kg with an $8 skin value. The supply of quality heavy lambs was limited and there was only a handful of sales over $140.
The bulk of the yarding comprised lighter weight lambs, including several pens of Dorpers. Most sales ranged from $60-$90. Some of the light lambs that sold to restockers recorded the strongest results. The supply of quality domestic and export slaughter lambs was limited, with the top end of the lambs from $120-$140. On a carcase basis the better quality lambs trended between 500c/kg-540c/kg cwt. Plainer and lighter lambs sold at lower carcase prices.
The mutton sale was also cheaper. A few pens of heavy crossbred ewes sold from $85-$110, while the medium weights ewes to slaughter made from $60-$85.
Source: NLRS, AuctionsPlus, Landmark.