LAMB prices rebounded this week as demand and inadequate quality supplies direct to abattoirs forced major processors back into saleyards.
Analysts also indicated some reluctance by producers backed by good seasonal conditions to accept lower saleyard rates contributed to fewer new season trade weight lambs coming into saleyards, thwarting any efforts to set lower price levels.
So despite speculation about the impact of recent Victorian COVID-19 abattoir workforce restrictions on processing capacity and the level of uptake of processor contracts for lambs at around 600c/kg in September and October, domestic processors showed they needed more lambs to meet immediate orders.
Lamb prices have been in relative free-fall for the past three weeks, compounded by producers concerned about market instability turning lambs off early, but this week Eastern States Daily Indicators for all lamb categories rebounded. Whereas
After Thursday’s saleyard sales, the National Livestock Reporting Service’s Eastern States Indicators for all lamb categories increased, with the restocker indicator rising 86 cents overnight to 860c/kg, or 140c/kg in one week. The Merino lamb indicator rose 17c/kg to 632c/kg, or 27 cents for the week.
The light lamb indicator closed at 699c/kg, up 3 cents overnight and up 29c/kg for the week. The trade lamb indicator finished up 20 cents to 669c/kg, up 29c/kg over the last seven days. The heavy lamb indicator closed up 20 cents to 631c/kg, and was up 31 cents for the week.
Lamb price rise catch market by surprise
Wagga Wagga agent Ryan Schiller said suckers numbers were up but total lambs numbers were down at the centre, and prices generally lifted $5-$20.
“This (price rise) sort of came out of the blue this week.
“Last week they were talking about maybe $100 for your best lambs and this week they came in and jumped the job $15-$20,” he said.
Mr Schiller said there could be a bit of a shortfall in supply or perhaps processors were starting to catch up on their direct consignments. He thought drier weather might have brought more lamb in.
“Maybe they were sitting on the fence to see what happens – next week could be a different story.”
Charles Stewart and Co agent Jamie McConachy said he was surprised at the $5-$22 lift in prices at Ballarat this week.
“They are saying it is all supply and demand, that was the driving factor, although you would have thought there were enough sucker lambs in the system to compensate for what is being lost on the old lamb front.”
He said early grid prices of around 600c/kg had put a pretty gloomy face on the start of the new season lamb turn-off.
“Hopefully, we can re-direct our thoughts a little bit and we can start talking 700c/kg on our new season lambs.”
Mr McConachy said normally there would be a “dribble” of new season lambs in south-west Victoria in the third week of September, with no good numbers until the first week of October.
“But what’s going to happen I think, is that because the farmers have got such good grass in their paddocks and the bottom end of the job is only at $120-$130, they’re hoping to utilise that feed and take them out to say slightly heavier weights to achieve better (per head) results.
“We might not see the new season lamb job open until the middle of October.”
He said the market is still speculating on the impact of COVID-19 on global and domestic markets and the effects of the government restrictions on Victorian lamb processor workforces and processing capacity.
Nutrien national livestock director Mark Barton said one factor in the stronger demand might be the difficulty of some NSW exporters in finding heavy lambs to fill orders. He also believed supplies of good trade lambs were also limited.
“I think we probably saw a significant correction (down) and you’ve got enough blokes with grass who are prepared to take a lamb out to 26-27kg.
“If it (the price) has got a 5 in it, I can’t see people selling, I reckon we will just hold.”
Mr Barton said he is appreciative of any processor prepared to put a forward price in the market, but he believed there is so much confidence in the season coming into spring that producers will look at taking their 18-22kg new season lambs out to 26-27kg, letting weight improve their bottom lines.
“I think a lot of people would like to see flush of numbers out of the southern markets of Ballarat, Bendigo and Hamilton between now and the end of November, projecting that there might be an opportunity (to sell) from December through March when there might be a relative shortage of numbers.”
Some of his clients are looking at buying lambs for the next 4-8 weeks, shearing them in mid to late October, wait to see the southern flush come through and then look at the pricing for the shorn lambs from December to February.
Dubbo trade lambs lift $10-$15
In New South Wales at the Dubbo saleyards on Monday, the agents yarded 8630 lambs, 2830 fewer than last week, and 2320 sheep, 570 less.
Meat & Livestock Australia’s NLRS said the plainer quality yarding had a larger percentage of small tidy-up lots, though there were still good numbers of heavy weight lambs. There were a few pens of well-finished new season lambs yarded, though the Merino lamb quality was back.
Most of the regular buyers operated in the dearer market. Trade lambs were $10-$15 dearer, with old lambs selling from $122-$163, or 650-690c/kg. Trade weight new season lambs were $4-$7 dearer at $136-$156, or 660-720c/kg.
Heavy weight lambs were $9-$14 dearer, with 24-30kg lambs selling from $150-$191 and lambs over 30kg making $176-$200. Heavy weight new season lambs sold from $157-$160.
Merino lambs were up to $13 dearer, with the trade weights making $118-$152 and heavy weights up to $160. First cross ewe lambs sold to restockers for $262 and hoggets sold to $165.
It was a mostly good quality yarding of mutton with most of the yarding in prime condition, and most grades were $11-$14 dearer. Merino ewes sold from $100-$180 and crossbred ewes made to $165. Merino wethers sold from $95-$198. Carcase prices for the better sheep ranged from 560-600c/kg. Restockers paid $117-$162 for White Dorper and Aussie White ewes.
Tamworth lambs firm to cheaper
On Monday at the Tamworth saleyards, the agents yarded 2300 lambs, and 300 sheep, 560 fewer.
The NLRS said it was a fair to good quality yarding of lambs and the usual buyers attended.
Heavy and Merino lambs were well-supplied, along with a small number of new season lambs. A restocker was active on the ewe portion. Lambs sold mostly firm to cheaper. Some of the heavier restocker lambs were a little dearer and a premium was paid for the ewe portion. Well-finished Merino lambs sold to a slightly dearer trend.
Following weeks of a downward trend, the heavy weight classes showed little change. Medium weights sold to the trade slightly cheaper. There were insufficient grown sheep for a market quote, but most were hoggets.
Bendigo trade lambs lift by up to $20
In Victoria at the Bendigo saleyards on Monday, the agents yarded 12,700 lambs, 2800 fewer than last week, and 4750 sheep, 250 more.
The NLRS said new season lambs dominated the offering after a wet weekend, but there was still some very good pens of heavy old season lambs off grain.
The market recorded a good price bounce across all categories. Heavy lambs improved by $10-$15, and neat trade weights lifted by up to $20. The trend continued into the sheep run where prices were mostly $10-$20 dearer.
Supply was a factor in the stronger result; however there was also more activity and enthusiasm shown by export and domestic meat buyers. The sale gained momentum as it progressed. One NSW-based exporter was particularly strong on heavy lamb and mutton.
There were some outstanding young lambs showing excellent weight and finish. Prices reached a top of $190 for an estimated 30kgcwt line. Most of the good trade and heavy young lambs moved up into a price range of $160-$175 at an estimated 620-700c/kg. The availability of light weight young lambs was again limited and these sold from $135-$155 at 660-740c/kg.
For the first time this season there was some large lines of unshorn little Merino lambs sent down from southern NSW. They received keen restocking support at $70-$130, and on size sold very strongly.
Extra heavy old season lambs above 30kg sold from $180-$210 in a much stronger result than the past fortnight. The general run of old season lambs was also dearer at $150-$170.
Sheep quality was generally very good, with most ewes and wethers in forward condition and with plenty of weight. Very large crossbred ewes sold to $200 and some outstanding Merino wethers made $195. Most sales were from $130-$175 for a dearer carcase result of 520-600c/kg.
Dublin trade and heavy lambs lift $20
At the South Australian Livestock Exchange at Dublin on Tuesday, the agents yarded 4000 lambs, 1500 fewer than last week, and 1600 sheep, 100 less.
The NLRS said the yarding attracted a smaller field of buyers plus an extra Victorian processor order, specialty butchers and a small field of restockers.
Quality was again extremely mixed; however, new seasons young lambs of all weights showed freshness and ideal conditioning. Competition for fresh heavy young lambs was good.
Extremely light young lambs sold firm from $58-$90 and light lambs lifted $10 to $125-$138. Medium weights rose $15-$20 to $135-$161, with a few heavy weights up by $15-$20 to $150-$178.
Light older lambs lifted by up to $15 to $82-$117 and light weights gained up to $20 to $120-$125. Medium weights also lifted $20 to $124-$144. Heavy weight lambs gained $15-$20 to $160-$170.
Hoggets sold mostly firm at $100-$148 and ewe hoggets made $84-$132. Light ewes eased up to $10 to $76-$110 and heavy weights eased $15 to $125-$130. Wethers of mostly heavier weights also eased $10 to $95-$124. Rams sold from $168-$204.
Increased demand lifts Ballarat lambs $5-$22
In Victoria at the Ballarat saleyards on Tuesday, the agents yarded 6127 lambs, 1000 fewer than last week, and 2800 sheep, 3504 less.
The NLRS said lamb quality was mostly very good, with more weight offered and a few pens of neat suckers were yarded.
Not all the usual buyers attended, though increased demand from export and domestic processers lifted prices $5-$22 across the yarding. Heavy lambs sold to $206, up by $22 on last week’s top price. Suckers sold from $110-$170 and light lambs made to $98-$123, up $8.
Lambs sold to restockers made $96-$122, firm to $10 dearer. Trade lambs 18-22kg sold from $124-$150, up $5-$10. Lambs 22-24kg made $148-$165, up $5, and 24-26kg lambs made $145-$164, with most at 590-685c/kg.
Export weight score 4 lambs 26-30kg sold from $170-$190 and extra heavy export lambs over 30kg sold from $175-$206, up to $22 dearer in places. Merino lambs over 16kg, sold from $118-$152.
Sheep quality was very good and prices increased up to $25 in places, across all categories. Merino ewes over 18kg sold from $126-$190 and heavy crossbred ewes from $150-$190. Merino wethers sold from $118-$195. Merino mutton made 648c/kg in places to average 600c/kg. Merino rams sold to $131 and crossbreds made $50.
Forbes new season lambs lift $8-$11
In NSW at the Forbes saleyards on Tuesday, the agents yarded 18,950 lambs, 2950 more than last week, and 2350 sheep, 800 more.
The NLRS said 9650 new season lambs were penned and quality was fair. There were good numbers of fresh, well-finished lambs, mostly trade and heavy weights. The usual buyers competed in the dearer market.
New season lambs lifted $8-$11 and more on some of the better types. Trade weight lambs 18-22kg sold from $142-$157. Heavy lambs to 26kg made $147-$168, with extra heavies ranging from $165-$188. Carcase prices ranged from 615-678c/kg.
Old lambs sold $7-$10 better with trade and heavy weights making $145-$165. Extra heavy weights sold from $154-$210. Carcase prices were 535-600c/kg. A good run of Merino lambs sold from $136-$188.
Mutton quality was fair with a good offering of heavy sheep. Merino ewes sold from $140-$186. Crossbred ewes made $126-$185 and Merino wethers sold from $148-$176.
Poor quality Muchea yarding drives prices lower
In Western Australia at the Muchea saleyards on Tuesday, the agents yarded 4000 lambs, 3183 fewer than last week, and 4500 sheep, 500 more.
The NLRS said it was a very poor quality yarding. With new season lambs expected soon, vendors cleaned out their old lambs. These were mostly in score 2 condition and the lack of quality drove the market down.
Today’s market toppers were heavy lambs at $181, ram lambs at $159, hoggets at $176, wethers at $174 and heavy ewes at $174.
Air freight and light trade lambs prices were quality-driven and eased $5. Best trade and heavy lamb prices dropped $15, again quality driven. Better quality hoggets fell $5 and ram lambs fell by $10.
In the lamb section, particularly the air freight types, the light 13-17kg lines made $70-$121 and were down by $5 and around 630c/kg. Lambs 18-20kg sold to processors for $115-$130, down $5, and around 630c/kg. The trade weight 21-22kg lambs sold from $135-$150, back $15, at 650c/kg.
Heavier 23kg-plus lambs sold from $150-$181, down $15, around 650c/kg. Ram lambs made from $140-$159, down $10. Very light store Merino lambs sold to graziers, with wethers mostly selling firm at $90-$105 and ewes making $65-$136, up $10.
Prices were generally firm for the better run of quality heavy mutton; however medium weights eased $5 and boners were back 45-$15.
Best heavy hoggets sold to the trade for $133-$176 and the best heavy wethers were up $15. The few best heavy older wethers sold to $174, up $15.
In the ewe mutton market, light weights boners up-18kg sold from $40-$90, down $15, while medium weight boners 19-24kg made $80-$135, down $3. The 25-30kg trade weights sold from $130-$165, back $5, and the heavier 30kg and over lines were firm at $160-$174.
No restocker interest in Tasmania
At the northern Tasmanian saleyards at Powranna and Killafaddy on Tuesday, the agents yarded 5757 lambs, 375 fewer than last week, and 250 sheep, 70 more.
The NLRS said the lamb season coming to an end and the general uncertainty in the processing sector put some nervousness into the vendors.
Heavy lambs were cheaper, but light trade lambs improved by as much as $30. There was almost no restocker interest and processors bought light trade lambs from $110-$126, trade weights made $126-$134, heavy weights sold from $124-$154 and a few extra heavy weights made $156-$158. Heavy ewes made $116-$124 and medium weights $105-$108.
Naracoorte lambs firm to dearer
In SA at the Naracoorte saleyards on Tuesday, the agents yarded 2242 lambs, 549 fewer, and 1028 sheep, 508 less.
The NLRS said the lamb offering sold to additional trade and processor orders, with only a small amount of restocker interest.
Quality was mixed as more new season lambs came forward; however, most of these were lacking the weight to attract much trade support.
Light weight new season lambs sold from $66-$118, with restockers paying $84-$96. Light trade types made $111-$126 and the trade weights sold from $123-$137. The few heavy trade types made $153-$166, with most sales at 650-700c/kg. Light old lambs sold from $109-$117 and the trade weights made $124-$147. Heavy old lambs sold from $148-$169 and the few extra heavy pens made $176-$204.
Sheep prices improved across all categories. Hoggets sold from $80-$156, with the light ewes making $66-$110. Medium weight ewes made $116-$138 and the heavy ewes sold from $145-$176. Most sheep sold from 550-620c/kg. Rams made $95-$136.
Cowra’s heavy suckers lift $12
In NSW at the Cowra saleyards on Wednesday, the agents yarded 5820 lambs, 1100 more than last week, and 190 sheep, 110 more.
The NLRS said quality was very good in the offering of 4400 new season lambs. The heavy old lambs were also well presented. Mainly trade and heavy weights were penned, with limited light lambs.
All the buyers operated and competition improved, helping the market move to a much dearer trend.
Light new season lambs sold to processors for $131-$135. Medium and heavy trade weight new season lambs were $8-$16 stronger at around 645c/kg. The heavy trade weight 23-24kg lambs sold from $149-$158.
Heavy weight new season lambs were $12 dearer at 605-620c/kg. Heavy weight new seasons sold from $156-$163and the extra heavies made $165-$177. Extra heavy weight old lambs were $13 dearer at $168-$192, or 555-575c/kg.
Mutton numbers continue-very limited with heavy first cross ewes selling from $145-$170 or 470c/kg
Wet white weather cuts Carcoar yarding
In NSW at the Carcoar saleyards on Wednesday, the agents yarded 1900 lambs, 1800 fewer than last week, and 260 lambs, 320 less.
The NLRS said snow and rain on the weekend affected the yarding. Some very good heavy weight lambs were yarded, along with some well-finished trade weight old and new season lambs. Not all the regular buyers operated on the small yarding.
Trade lambs finished firm to $3 dearer, with the old lambs selling from $122-$148, or 580-600c/kg. Trade weight new season lambs made $141-$150.
Heavy weight lambs were $4-$6 dearer, with those over 24kg making $144-$186, or 570-600c/kg. Heavy weight new season lambs sold to $157. A single pen of trade weight Merino lambs made $115.
Restockers paid $121-$141 for young new season lambs and a single hogget made $140.
It was a mixed yarding of mutton. Merino ewes sold from $115-$140 and crossbred ewes sold to $136. Merino wethers made to $136.
Yass lamb and sheep market also dearer
At the South Eastern Livestock Exchange at Yass on Wednesday, the agents yarded 3500 lambs, 720 fewer, and 1600 sheep, 200 more.
The NLRS said quality was good, with a large percentage of trade and heavy lambs, a small run of store new season lambs and a slightly larger Merino run. All the usual winter buyers operated in the dearer market.
New season lambs sold to restockers made $136-$138. Medium and heavy trade lamb weights to 22kg were $6-$9 dearer at $130-$150, or 660-680c/kg. Heavy new season lambs from 22-26kg sold from $146-$159 or mostly 600-635c/kg.
Old trade lambs were $9-$12 dearer at $129-$158, or 630c/kg. Heavy weights were $14 stronger at $142-$163, with extra heavy lambs making to $218. Trade weight Merino lambs were $12 dearer at $130-$147. Heavy weights sold to $167.
Mutton quality was mixed. Prices lifted $6-$10 for ewes and by $16 for the bigger, better run of wethers. Medium weight ewes made from $130-$154, heavy crossbred ewes from $165-$194 and Merino ewes reached $174. Wethers sold to $190 and light and medium weight sheep averaged 550-600c/kg.
Hamilton lambs prices $10-$15 stronger
In Victoria at the Hamilton saleyards on Wednesday, the agents yarded 1522 lambs, 473 fewer than last week, and 613 sheep, 452 less.
The NLRS said there was a little more weight in the lamb offering, although it was not as even as the previous sale. Not all the regular processors attended or were active, and there was no restocker competition for lambs in a market that was stronger overall by $10-$15.
Light 12-18kg lambs made $70 and $115, or 575-630c/kg. Light trade weight lambs 18-22kg sold from $115-$138, or 600-650c/kg. Medium trade weight lambs 22-25kg made $125-$153, or 580-650c/kg. Heavy trade weight lambs 26-30kg and over sold up to $155, averaging 550c/kg.
Sheep quality was good and they were, mainly ewes with very few wethers, and sold firm to $5-$10 dearer. Three score hoggets made to $160. Heavy crossbred ewes sold to $162 and the better well-covered Merino ewes made $106-$134. The general run of Merino mutton made 540-600c/kg. Terminal rams sold to $47 and Merinos to $98.
Horsham lamb prices up by $10-$20
At the Horsham saleyards on Wednesday, the agents yarded 1908 lambs, 242 fewer, and 957 sheep, 236 less.
The NLRS said about 300 new season young lambs were yarded. Quality was average to good and more buyers operated in the dearer market, up by $10-$20.
Young trade weight lambs sold from $145-$155 at around 630c/kg. Old lambs were dearer, and sold from $126-$164 for the better presented medium and heavy trade weights to be $5-$15 up on last week.
Merino lambs mostly sold dearer at $103-$147. Restockers paid from $125-$136 for young lambs. New season medium trade weight lambs sold from $145-$155, or 630c/kg. Merino lambs mainly made $123-$147, or 560c/kg. Light trade weight old lambs made $114-$127, or 560c/kg.
Medium trade weight lambs 22-24kg sold from $126-$141, or 560c/kg. Heavy trade weight lambs 24-26kg sold from $140-$164, or 590c/kg. The export weights made $156-$179 and the extra heavy weights sold from $180-$200.
Sheep also sold to a dearer trend, with some extra northern competition lifting prices $20-$30 and more in places. Heavy crossbred ewes sold to $200 and Merinos to $170.
Heavy hoggets sold from $118-$136. Light weight sheep made $92-$125, or 600c/kg. Medium weight sheep sold from $105-$143 and Merino mutton averaged 560c/kg. Heavy Merino ewes sold from $155-$170 at around 585c/kg. Heavy crossbred ewes made $153-$200, or 475-540c/kg. Rams ranged from $35-$140.
Katanning lamb prices ease
In WA at the Katanning saleyards on Wednesday, the agents yarded 2680 lambs, 1534 fewer, and 6000 sheep, 2050 more.
The NLRS said the yarding was dominated by ewes which sold firm, with good lines of extra heavy ewes topping at $200.
Lamb prices eased on most categories, with subdued competition from processors and feeder buyers. Heavy weight lamb prices eased and they sold to $160, while light weight new season lambs topped at $105.
Air freight weight lambs under 16kg sold from $70-$100 and the heavier lines under 18kg made $90-$130. Merino wether lambs sold from $40-$120 depending on quality, and the ewe lambs made $17-$122.
Trade weight lambs, including Merinos, sold from $110-$155, or 685c/kg. The heavier lambs made $140-$160, or 605c/kg.
Young Merino ewes sold to processors for $160 and the lighter weights made $30-$80, depending on quality. Mutton prices remained firm to dearer on some pens with strong competition from processors.
Extra heavy ewes sold from $169-$200, at 510c/kg. Heavy ewes over 24kg made $145-$168 and medium weight ewes with fleeces sold from $115-$140, at 520c/kg. Light weight stores and boner ewes with a fleece eased to $63-$138.
The best young hogget wethers made $135-$182, and the stores and lighter weights sold from $40-$110. A good selection of heavy wethers sold for $140-$180 and lighter weights made $70-$134. Ram prices eased, with heavy younger rams selling to processors for $50-$100. Mature rams and stores made $20-$40. Ram lambs varied in quality and made $110-$160 for heavier weights and from $15-$95 for light weights.
Wagga Wagga lamb prices rise $19
In NSW at the Wagga Wagga saleyards on Thursday, the agents yarded 26,600 lambs, 1400 fewer, and 6250 sheep, 450 less.
The NLRS said the new season lamb offering rose to 14,500. Quality was excellent over old trade and heavy lamb categories, with most lambs grain-assisted or finished off crops.
Heavy and extra heavy lamb numbers were down, but there were still an excellent selection of lambs weighing in over 30kg carcase weight. Restocker activity was minimal. A full field of buyers attended.
New season trade lamb quality was exceptional and buyers all wanted their share, which pushed prices up to $19 dearer. Major domestic processors dominated the market for lambs weighing 22kg-24kg, with other processors struggling to equal prices tendered.
Old trade lambs were back in vogue, with prices up to $25 dearer. Merino trade lambs sold to a large group of buyers and all categories sold to stronger competition at around 617-672c/kg. Young lambs returning to the paddock made $127-$138.
There was a full field of export buyers and demand was significantly stronger. Heavy and extra heavy old lamb prices lifted $18-$30, to average 618c/kg. New season heavy lambs were keenly sought after and improved up to $18, to 643c/kg. A single pen of lambs weighing 35kg recorded a top price of $218.
It was another good quality yarding of mutton, with heavy sheep well-supplied. Heavy ewes sold to strong demand lifting prices by $10-$17, to 545c/kg. Heavy wethers were in reasonable numbers and sold at 515-572c/kg. Trade sheep were limited and averaged 612c/kg.