Prime & Store Sheep Reports

Lamb prices lift as quality supplies tighten nationally

Sheep Central July 5, 2024

A SCARCITY of slaughter lambs and now mutton has lifted prices in eastern states saleyards and in Western Australia as the early sell-off of 2023 drop lambs and seasonal conditions bites into available lamb and sheep for processing.

At major New South Wales and Victorian saleyards over the past week, trade lamb prices have lifted, export value have risen and light export weight lambs

Mutton prices have also lifted $15-$30 a head nationally depending on weight and quality. Agents now believe the current higher lamb prices could continue as late as Christmas due to tighter quality supplies due to reduced numbers and seasonal conditions.

Wagga lamb market surges $15-$28 with keen Victorian processors

At the Wagga Wagga saleyards yesterday, Victorian domestic and export processors dominated the market, taking home 80 percent of the lambs offered, with major Dubbo processor Fletcher International Exports closing for the next two weeks and other processors still getting contract lambs quiet.

The National Livestock Reporting Service said quality was quite good with each agent having big runs of grain-assisted lambs. The NLRS said market surged $15-$28 with Victorian processors the market drivers.

Trade lamb prices improved $8-$15, with most 20-24kg lines making $146-$216 to average 849c/kg cwt.  Store buyers and feedlot action was limited. Lambs to feed or returning to the paddock ranged from $135-$173.  Merino lambs were keenly sought, with even plainer types enticing processors. Better presented Merino trade types sold from $133-$195 and heavy lines $222-$258. Export lamb prices lifted as more weight became available, with grain-assisted lambs lifting $16-$28 to average 837c/kg cwt. Lambs over the 30kg cwt made $260-$305 or around 837c/kg cwt. The NLRS said Wagga mutton prices surged $15-$32/head, with heavy wethers making $167-$174 to averaged 486c/kg cwt. Heavy Merino ewes sold from $128-$186 to average 433c/kg cwt. Trade sheep sold at $77 to $124head, the NLRS said.

Riverina Livestock Agents auctioneer James Tierney the markets were reacting to the lack of good slaughter lambs at New South Wales and southern saleyards, and over the hooks.

“And even here (at Wagga), out of the 46,000 lambs yarded, there were a lot of plain lambs.”

Mr Tierney said the tightening of the lamb market has taken longer than expected “and it could last a fair while,” with not many lambs on feed compared to other years.

“I think the way the season is in the bottom of New South Wales and most of Victoria, good lambs will be hard to find this calendar year.”

He expected this year’s Spring turnoff could be delayed months “and some of them may not get there,” with many producers not familiar with or prepared for finishing lambs on grain.

Mr Tierney guessed that with the big mutton turn-off and not many ewes have been joined in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, a poor joining in northern NSW and seasonal conditions impacting marking percentages there will fewer lambs and of less quality.

He said the Victorian processors competed strongly on light Middle East kill, trade and export weight lambs.

Ballarat export lambs improve $15-$25

At the Ballarat saleyards on Tuesday, the NLRS said lamb numbers decreased again to 16,900 with heavy and extra heavy weight categories presented in excellent condition, but a large portion of the  yarding were plainer secondary types.

Although not all the usual buyers were active the market opened strong over all categories. The NLRS said store buyers were keen, but had stronger competition from processors and light lambs sold $10 dearer, with medium weights making $10-$15 more, and heavy and heavy export lambs sold $15-$25 dearer. Heavy export lambs sold to $302/head.

The NLRS said lambs back to the paddock sold from $43-$149 and lambs to feed on made $140-$162. Light trade lambs under 18kg made $85-$138, trade lambs 18-22kg $140-$192 and 22-26kg lines from $181-$222 to range from 760-860c/kg cwt.

Heavy export lambs 26-30kg made $197-$258 and over 30kg lines sold from $260-$302/head or from 840-870c/kg cwt.

Hamilton lambs lift $20-$25

At Hamilton on Wednesday, the NLRS said agents yarded 5200 lambs, 3800 fewer. Despite a very mixed quality lacklustre penning with limited numbers of suitably well-covered lambs for trade buyers and more plainer tail end lambs, the NLRS said very small light lambs gained $20/head and slaughter lambs over 26kg sold $25/head dearer. Medium weights gained $10/head.

The NLRS said most better trade lambs made 780-930c/kg cwt. The best heavy lambs topped at $299/head. Light 12-16kg lambs sold from $71-$140, 18-22kg trades from $154 to $186 and the 22-26kg lines made $180-$224/head. Hoggets topped at $169/head. All sheep gained $20-$30/head and more in places, with the general run of mutton averaging 450-500c/kg cwt.

Hamilton-based LMB Livestock and Land agent Bernie Grant said lamb prices have turned a corner  on the back of supply.

“I think people have been selling pretty aggressively for the last couple of months and the supply of last year’s lambs is starting to run out and there are no early lambs coming on, so there is a shortfall.”

Mr Grant said he expected the turn-off of Spring lambs might not as be delayed in New South Wale’s Riverina region as in south-west Victoria.

“It will depend on what sort of Winter and Spring rain we can get here.

“But you would imagine we would probably be at least two to four weeks behind.”

Mr Grant said there is still little confidence among producers to finish lambs to higher weights.

“But there still might be if they (processors) incentivize, people might do it,” he said.

“But it would need to be a fairly good incentive to do it.

“They would need to release a price for October-November in July sometime so that people can prepare to feed their lambs to get them up.”

Mr Grant said last year there were a lot of carry-over lambs marketed into October-November from the year before.

“We are not going to see that this year as much, so I reckon supply will be tight right through until Christmas, which should indicate that prices should hopefully hold up as somewhere it is now.”


A lift in the Katanning sheep and lamb market on Wednesday, despite some processors heading into maintenance shutdowns, has highlighted the likelihood of lower future supplies for processors, and into next year, with reports of producers joining fewer ewes after an extended period of low saleyard prices, limited kill space and lack of confidence with the live sheep trade phaseout.

At the Katanning saleyards, the NLRS said prices trended up $20 for prime and better framed store lambs. Processors pushed prices with selected pens reaching 500 to 600c/kg cwt, while feeder buyers were chasing numbers. Light weight lambs under 16kg cwt sold to $103 while weights under 18kg cwt sold from $58-$124, trade weights made $110-$140 and heavy lambs sold to $150.

The NLRS said mutton values also gained at Katanning, with low numbers of heavyweights offered. Very plain sheep sold to minimal prices with no demand. But prime hoggets sold to $100 and a mixed quality yarding of Merino wether hoggets made $1-$106. Heavy ewes sold to $111.  Light weight store ewes sold from $1-$20 and bigger framed, heavier stores made up to $82. Medium weights sold from $77-$107 and heavy weights over 30kg cwt returned from $93-$115/head. Medium weight Merino wethers sold to $101 and mature rams made $20-$100 with processors, the NLRS said.

WAFarmers vice president Steve McGuire said there have been reports of many Merino producers that have not joined ewes, with Merino ram matings most affected, raising concerns about self-replacement of the state’s flock.

“Significant numbers of sheep have not been mated this year, that’s for sure, just how many is the question, but it’s a lot.”

Mr McGuire said the improvement in WA saleyard prices highlights the likelihood of lower supplies for processors.

“They need to get used to these prices.”



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