Lamb prices drop as buyers pick over seasonal turn-off

Sheep Central, October 14, 2020

TRADE and heavy lamb prices dropped in eastern state saleyards this week as buyers took advantage of increased yardings at major centres.

With recent contracts offering less than the going rates in saleyards, most producers enjoying good rain-driven pasture growth are still focussing on saleyard marketing of new season lambs.

Prices held or increased for trade and heavy lambs in New South Wales centres on Monday, but fell in NSW, Victorian and South Australian centres on Tuesday – down $10-$15 in Bendigo and Naracoorte – with buyers discounting plainer trade lambs by 20c/kg cwt.

However, despite the price pressure, the Eastern States Daily Indicators for the main slaughter categories, after rising in recent weeks, only just dipped below last year levels this week. After Tuesday’s saleyard sales, the ESDI for trade lambs closed at 80-1c/kg, down 17 cents on last week, and five cents lower than a year ago. The heavy lamb indicator closed at 789c/kg, 12 cents lower than last week and than at the same time last year.

Store lamb competition eased, but some markets had restockers seeking breeding stock. The restocker lamb indicator closed down six cents to 911c/kg yesterday, although this was still 51 cents higher than last year. Staying firm was the Merino lamb indicator, up one cent to 757c/kg, and the light lamb indicator, up four cents to 838c/kg.

Bendigo lamb buyers more selective

In Victoria at the Bendigo saleyards on Monday, the agents yarded 34,000 lambs, 2000 fewer than last week, and 7000 sheep.

Meat & Livestock Australia’s National Livestock Reporting Service said the lamb yarding was dominated by young crossbred lambs, which accounted for about 26,000 head, with the rest being Merinos, and old season and shorn lambs.

The full field of buyers was more selective in their bidding and most slaughter lambs were $10-$15- easier. The market also showed price differences based around breed quality and finish for lambs of the same weight. An example of this was in the trade lamb category of 22-24kg cwt, with the best fat score 4 young lambs averaging an estimated 783c/kg compared to 763c/kg for plainer first crosses.

The limited supply of small and light weight young lambs eased by $3-$5. Store competition was not as extensive this week, with just a couple of buyers operating from Ballarat plus some local support. The heaviest young lambs over 30kg sold from $222-$248. It required a good 26kg  lamb to make above $200 and there were only about a dozen sales over $230.

Many medium and heavy trade weight lambs sold from $165-$195 and on a carcase basis most slaughter lamb categories averaged 750-780c/kg. Specialist Ballarat finishers paid to $214 for heavy trade lambs to shear, but didn’t buy the volumes of a week ago.

Smaller lambs sold to processors and restockers mostly from $130-$155. Young Merino lambs made from $150 to $191 for the better finished types, and on a carcase basis were often at a similar price point to some of the crossbreds.

The sheep yarding was dominated by heavy types thanks to the good season. Not all processors competed and prices fluctuated for a result similar to a week ago on a carcase price basis. Most mutton was estimated at 550-620c/kg. Big crossbred ewes made $186-$240, heavy Merino wethers sold from $182-$220 and heavy Merino ewes sold for $175-$227. Plainer sheep mostly sold from $130-$160, with poorer types making $103-$129.

Dubbo’s new season trade lambs lift $4-$9

In New South Wales at the Dubbo saleyards on Monday, the agents yarded 18,900 lambs, 420 fewer than last week, and 4990 sheep, 1550 more.

The NLRS said it was a good quality yarding with most of the usual buyers operating.

There was a good selection of trade and heavy weight new season lambs and some very good old lambs, mostly with plenty of weight. There were also good numbers of heavy weight Merino lambs mixed throughout.

Compared to a fortnight ago, trade weight new season lambs were $4-$9 dearer, selling from $168-$210 at 830-880c/kg. Trade weight old lambs sold from $153-$196 and heavy weight lambs were $15 dearer, compared to a fortnight ago.

The old lambs 24-30kg sold from $178-$236 and lambs over 30kg made $230-$280, or around 750c/kg.

Heavy weight new season lambs sold to $250. Merino lambs were $2-$6 dearer, with the trade weights making $140-$183 and heavy weights selling from $173-$235.

Young lambs sold to restockers for $130-$160 and hoggets sold to $220.

It was a very good quality yarding of mutton and most grades sold $6-$9 dearer. Merino ewes sold from $130-$206 and crossbreds made $166-$228. Merino wethers sold from $154-$229. Restockers paid from $112-$130 for Merino ewes and to $256 for Aussie White ewes.

Lambs and sheep dearer at Tamworth

In NSW at the Tamworth saleyards on Monday, the agents yarded 3500 lambs, 700 more, and 2000 sheep, 1600 fewer.

The NLRS said lamb quality and finish was mostly good as new season supplies increase.

There were a few lines of secondary quality lambs showing finish. New season lamb supplies on the increase. All regular processors attended.

Restockers were looking to purchase breeding stock. The strong demand from processors for all classes of lambs resulted in dearer trends.

Well-finished young lambs experienced strong gains, attracting premiums over similar weight old lambs. The quality of the old lambs was a little mixed. The heavier the lambs the greater the improvement in price. Well-finished secondary quality lambs also sold to a dearer trend; however, the improvement was not as great.

It was a fair to very well-finished penning of sheep. Demand for the well-finished lines was strong, but less so for plainer conditioned sheep for processing. Restockers paid to $265 for a line of young Dorper ewes with a small percentage of lambs. Market trends were dearer for well-finished sheep for processing and slightly cheaper for the plainer condition sheep.

Dublin lambs and sheep firm on quality

At the South Australian Livestock Exchange on Tuesday, the agents yarded 8000 lambs, 2500 more than last week, and 3000 sheep, 1500 more.

The NLRS said the usual buyers operated, including specialty butchers and restockers, resulting in a mostly firm trend across all classes, with prices reflecting quality on offer.

Lamb quality was generally fair to good, and with the mutton offering mostly heavier weights and an additional Victorian order again operating, competition was good.

Extremely light young lambs sold from $86-$96 and light trade weights made $100-$140. Medium weight lambs sold from $127-$159 and heavy weights made $150-$190. The few extreme heavy weight lambs sold from $180-$216.

Light trade weight older lambs sold from $128-$150 and medium weights made $154-$175-. Heavy weights sold from $152-$210 and extreme heavy weights made $180-$206.

Light hoggets sold from $112-$148 and a mixed selection of heavier weights made from $120 up to $214 for a draft of full wool ideally-conditioned Merinos. Light ewe mutton sold from $120-$140 and medium weights made $121-$166. Heavy ewes sold from $142-$180. The few wethers offered were of extremely mixed quality and sold from $122-$166. Young Merino ewes sold strongly to restockers for $154-$204. Rams sold to processors for $80-$160 and restockers operating on young British breed young rams paid $235-$250.

Forbes’ lambs sell cheaper

In NSW at the Forbes saleyards on Tuesday, the agents yarded 24,600 lambs, 5900 more than last week, and 5000 sheep, 1055 more.

The NLRS said lamb quality remained good, although there was the start of a few drier lambs with seed in the skin.

Heavy trade and heavy and extra heavy lambs made up the bulk of the yarding, with light trade and stores still in short supply. There was a very good run of Merino lambs, mostly falling into the heavy weight range.

Lambs sold to a cheaper trend with new season lambs selling to restockers for $129-$179.

The medium and heavy trade lambs sold $10-$12 cheaper at $151-$178, or 780-820c/kg. Heavy lambs were $12-$15 cheaper at $185-$212, or around 770c/kg. Extra heavy new season lambs sold to $248.

Old trade lambs sold $14 cheaper at $155-$175 and the heavy weights lost $5 to make $170-$207. Extra heavy lambs sold to $260.  Merino trade lambs were $8 cheaper at $155-$172 and heavy weights made $174-$222.

Quality was good in the offering of mostly heavy sheep and prices were very similar to last week. Medium weight ewes sold from $143-$168. Heavy crossbred ewes made $191-$220 and heavy Merino wethers sold to $230.

Ballarat lambs firm to $6 easier

In Victoria at the Ballarat saleyards on Tuesday, the agents yarded 17,833 lambs, 1328 more than last week, and 6367 sheep, 4884 fewer.

The NLRS said lamb quality was very good across all weights and grades. All the usual buyers attended, but bidding was erratic at times making prices firm to $6 easier.

Young lambs sold to $237 and old heavy lambs made to $250. Restockers were active on the light weight lambs, with those under 18kgs selling from $80-$161 and the 18kg and over lines making $150-$168.

Young 18-22kg lambs sold to the trade for $152-$184, the 22-24kg lines made $174-$200 and the 24-26kg lots sold from $192-$215, or within a range of 756-848c/kg to average 790-800c/kg.

Export weight 26-30kg lambs sold from $210-$237, or around 770c/kg. Heavy old lambs sold strongly again this week at $203-$250. Merino lambs under 18kg sold from $75-$150 and the 18kg-plus lines made $146-$223.

Sheep quality very good across the yarding with a few exceptional lines of Merino wethers with plenty of weight. Strong competition made prices firm to $5 stronger on last week’s levels.

Heavy Merino ewes sold from $160-$184 to average around 650c/kg. Heavy crossbred ewes made $149-$235 to average 590c/kg. Heavy Merino wethers sold from $155-$222 and lighter weights made $110-$176 to average 670c/kg.

Naracoorte sheep and lamb prices dip $10-$12

In SA at the Naracoorte saleyards on Tuesday, the agents yarded 20,622 lambs, 8715 more than last week, and 2701 sheep, 153 more.

The NLRS said lambs sold to a larger array of trade and processor buyers, including an extra Victorian order and more restockers, who competed strongly for lambs to turn out.

Lamb quality was very good, with some superb heavy pens with great weight and finish, as well as being fresh in the skin. An excellent line up of trade types was also presented.

However, sheep and lamb prices eased by $10-$12, and with more in places.

The restocking lambs bucked this trend-lift by $5-$7 with the extra orders providing the competition for these lambs. Light lambs-the trade sold from $116-$142 with the light weight trade 2 and 3 score types returning from $144-$154-. Restockers were very active as they sought supply paying from $106-$118 on lighter weights and from $128-$150- for heavier pens. Trade weight 3 score lambs made from $152-$182- as they sold from mainly from 750c-780c/kg . Heavy lambs sold from $174-$214 as the extra heavy pens made from $204-the market high of $243-. Light old lambs made from $110-$123 with the medium weights returning from $138-$158 as heavy old lambs sold from $163-a high of $198-. Hoggets made from $110-$180 with light ewes selling-$106-. Medium weighted ewes returned from $115-$145 with the heavier types making from $134-a high of $198- as most ewes sold from 520c-580c/kg. Wethers sold from $175-$215 as rams made from $63-$130-.

Muchea ewes and lambs sell dearer

In Western Australia at the Muchea saleyards on Tuesday, the agents yarded 4000 lambs, and 5000 sheep, 1400 more.

The NLRS said demand was stronger throughout for the overall better quality yarding.

New and old season lambs sold $5-$10 dearer, hogget prices rose $10 and wethers sold $20 dearer.

Light new season lambs 12-17kg sold from $67-$117 at nearly 650c/kg to be up $10 and the corresponding old season lambs made nearly 640c/kg, also $10 dearer. The light weight 18-20kg  new season lambs were $5 dearer at $118-$125, at nearly 650c/kg, and the corresponding old season lambs rose $10 to $116-$120, or nearly 600c/kg. The trade weight 22kg new season lambs sold from $130-$140 at nearly 625c/kg, up by $5, and the corresponding old season lambs made $123-$136, up $10, or nearly 590c/kg. The 23kg new season lambs sold from $140-$145 at nearly 625c/kg, up $10, and the 24kg lambs made $150-$151 to be nearly 600c/kg, up by $5. The best heavy old seasons lambs sold from $145-$153 at nearly 580c/kg, to be $5 dearer.

Medium weight 18-24kg ewe boners gained $15 to make $90-$125 and the prime and heavy ewes sold $10 dearer. Medium weight boners 18-24kg sold from $90-$125 and gained $15.

The best hoggets sold to the trade were wethers that made $120-$142 at nearly 500c/kg and were $10- dearer. The heavy older wethers sold to processors gained $20 on a better quality penning and sold from $140-$145 at nearly 500c/kg.

The 25-30kg trade weight ewes sold from $125-$150, up $10, and the extra heavies made $150-$168 to be also $10 dearer and average from 500-510c/kg. The old season ram lambs sold from $97-$130 at nearly 550c/kg.

Tasmanian lamb prices lift $5-$10

In Tasmania on Tuesday, the agents yarded 1370 lambs, 260 fewer than last week, and 500 sheep, 170 less.

The lamb offering included 694 excellent quality new season lambs. The market for new lambs improved $5-$10 with good export competition, backed up by restockers, who bought 224 lambs for from $142-$166. Light trade lambs made $170-$172, trade weights sold from $176 to $190 and heavy lambs sold for $198-$206.

There was a good line up of heavy old lambs and although not the weight of last week they met strong competition, with light trade lambs making $140-$182, medium trade weights $176-$198 and heavy trades from $196-$228.

Extra heavy ewes made $130-$144, heavy wethers sold to $136, medium weights from $130-$134 and a few light sheep sold for $87-$102.


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  1. Lloyd Dunlop, October 16, 2020

    A great report as usual. Love reading it. Missing is a paragraph listing buyers, present and absent, for each sale. A valuable guide to producers on demand.
    Is there a reason writers don’t include this information? Editor’s note: MLA doesn’t normally state which buyers attend sales or were absent.

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