LAMB prices surged in more saleyards this week, with demand pushing extra heavyweight rates up around the $300 mark nearly three months earlier than last year.
As direct consignments into abattoirs slow and supply tightens, domestic and export processors have been forced to lift their over-the-hook rates and compete more strongly against each other for quality supplies in saleyards.
Competition between the domestic and export processors is reportedly most intense for lambs in the 24-27 kg carcase weight range, which suit local and export customer product options. Domestic buyers are buying lambs up to 28kg and exporters are sourcing down to 20-23kg to get quality supplies. This is further complicated for domestic processors by restockers and lot feeders continuing to compete on light trade weight lambs in expectation of higher prices in winter.
“There are no rules at the moment,” one agent said.
In some centres, 18-22kg trade weight lambs similar to those bought for $155-$160 two weeks ago are now making up to $180 with supermarkets and processors. Some processors reportedly paid up to 870-900c/kg for trade lambs and restockers purchased 12-18kg lines for 1000c/kg-plus at times.
Price rises for extra heavy weight lambs this week were quality related in some saleyards, as specialist lot feeders and traders release supplementary-fed lines before lambs cut their permanent incisors.
The price peaks this week included a Victorian record price of $300 for lambs at Ballarat on Tuesday, followed by rates of up to $271 at Horsham and $270 at Hamilton on Wednesday, $296.60 at Wagga Wagga yesterday, and $300 at Griffith and $280 at Cowra today.
In New South Wales at the Wagga saleyards yesterday, with agents yarding 35,000 lambs, 1000 more, and 8000 sheep, 2000 fewer, the National Livestock Reporting Service said 150 pens of lambs made $200-plus a head as prices for extra heavyweights rose $12-$25 to average around 808c/kg cwt.
Landmark Wagga’s Peter Cabot said client Wayne Oxenbridge from Tallimba sold his top Poll Dorset lambs for $296.60 and his seconds for $295, all up selling 201 lambs for an average of $296.20.
“He said I’ve sold 200 lambs and got 60 grand, it’s incredible.”
Mr Cabot said clients selling their extra heavyweight lambs now have put from $40-$60 of feed and time into them. Mr Oxenbridge’s heaviest lambs were estimated at 40kg carcase weight and bare shorn with a skin value of perhaps $10.
He said the current price levels are being reached 10 weeks earlier than they were achieved last year.
“This bloke (Oxenbridge) sold lambs in the same week last year, and he got $220, and let’s not forget that we (the Wagga centre) didn’t get $300 until August last year.
“It all points in one unbelievable direction which is usually a crash, this is uncharted, you would not know what could happen here, anything could happen,” he said.
The Wagga saleyards holds the national record for heavy lambs of $320 set on August 26 last year, and Dubbo holds the extra heavyweight record of $344 set on September 3 2018.
Mutton prices also strengthened again later this week, with the NLRS reporting a shortage of heavy sheep to fill Chinese orders pushed Wagga’s mutton sale into overdrive.
The NLRS said there were plenty of sales above $200 for Merinos and crossbred ewes. Heavy crossbred ewes topped at $250 to average 618c/kg cwt. Heavy Merino ewes sold above 600c/kg, lifting $32 to average 661c/kg, the NLRS said. Bare shorn wethers weighing 26kg surged through the 700-cent barrier to average 651c/kg. Trade sheep made $135-$161, averaging from 572-600c/kg cwt.
One agent this week sold about 10,000 sheep and lambs this week for an average of just under $200 a head.
After today’s saleyard sales, the NLRS Eastern States Daily Indicators for the lamb categories were: restocker, down 1 cent, 815c/kg; Merino up 1 cent, 754c/kg; light, down 1 cent, 784c/kg; trade, up 3 cents, 789c/kg; heavy, up 2 cents, 784c/kg. The ESDI for mutton closed up 1 cent to 557c/kg.