Domestic and export processors doing pre-Easter buying and building supplies for the break in saleyard sales pushed lamb prices higher in saleyards mid-week.
Despite the impact of Easter on sales, agents believe this week’s lift in exporter, domestic processor and restocker competition might indicate an earlier than expected shortening of lamb supplies, especially for quality trade lambs.
In NSW, producers forced to off-load lambs because of dry pasture conditions and failing stock water were rewarded with good competition on even secondary lambs, despite boosting Wagga’s yarding by 6000 to 31,000 lambs.
Processors building lamb supplies
JM Ellis auctioneer Robert Pike said with no market in Hamilton next week, buyers were shoring up lamb supplies.
“It changed in a fortnight, two weeks ago everyone had plenty of lambs then all of a sudden they all want lambs for this week – so I would say there is a bit of shortage.”
He said it was difficult to book lambs into works for the past two weeks.
“You look at Bendigo they had 7500 less lambs, Ballarat had about 7000 less and we had less lambs, so all of a sudden you get the feeling there is probably not the numbers of lambs out there that they thought.”
But Mr Pike said if lamb prices got back to 600c/kg cwt or better, “everyone gets the shakes”.
“And that’s the processors plus the people that are buying them – your average person in the supermarket has only got so much to spend and there are lots of alternatives like beef, pork and chicken.
“It gets to a stage where lamb gets a bit expensive and people change their minds and do other things.”
Supplies of quality lambs tightening
Riverina Livestock Agents director Tim Drum said buyers at the Wagga sale this week were preparing for Easter and for any forward supply shortages.
“I think the supermarkets have got enough at the moment, but the exporters might getting caught up a little bit.
“There was a big gap in the lambs yesterday, they were either outstanding or they weren’t much chop.”
Mr Drum said the plainer and secondary lambs sold to strong restocker enquiry and for export at Wagga yesterday, especially the better Merino lambs.
“I think we are starting to see a shortening in supply, of decent lambs anyway.
“In this area there are a lot of people running out of water.”
Mr Drum believed supermarkets and trade buyers would find their preferred lambs hardest to buy.
“They are going to be the shortest.”
He said the Wagga lamb yarding was boosted by producers forced to turn-off lambs because of water issues, chasing the higher prices and conscious of the lack of a sale until April 9.
“The market isn’t too bad for this time of the year.”
All NLRS indicators lift, except restocker lambs
All the National Livestock Reporting Service’s Eastern States Daily Indicators (ESDIs) for lamb and mutton carcase weight indicators improved mid-week, except for restocker lambs, which dropped seven cents after Thursday’s sales to 507c/kg.
After yesterday’s saleyard sale, the other lamb ESDI’s were: Merinos, 465c/kg, up 14 cents; light, 483c/kg, up 3c; trade, 524c/kg, up 6c, and; heavy, 529c/kg, up 4c. The ESDI for mutton lifted six cents to 339c/kg.
Nationally, the NLRS indicator for trade lambs climbed seven cents to 525c/kg and the heavy lamb indice closed on Thursday at 529c/kg, up four cents. The national mutton indicator was up seven cents to 339c/kg.
Carcoar heavy lambs $8-$11 dearer
In NSW at the Central Tablelands Livestock Exchange at Carcoar, the agents yarded 8100 lambs, 1800 fewer than last week, and 3300 sheep, 1200 less.
The NLRS said it was a mixed yarding of lambs with some top heavy weight lambs, a fair percentage of lightweights and limited ideal trade weights.
Lightweight lambs were $3 dearer with the 12-18kg cwt 2 scores selling from $40-$89. Trade lambs were $9 dearer with the 18-22kg 3 scores making $86-$120 to average 509c/kg cwt. Heavy weight lambs were $8-$12 dearer and the over 22kg 4 scores sold from $120-$189 to average 511c/kg cwt. Lambs to the restockers were also dearer with the restockers paying from $69-$111. Hoggets sold to $100.
It was a plainer quality yarding of mutton with very few heavy weight sheep. Lightweight ewes were $3 dearer, but most others sold $2-$3 cheaper. The 2 score ewes sold from $34-$58, while the better 3 and 4 scores Merinos sold to processors for $58-$70 and the crossbred made $98. The 3 and 4 score Merino wethers sold from $76-$98.
Wagga’s secondary lambs in demand
At the Wagga saleyards on Thursday, the agents yarded 31,000 lambs, 6000 more than last week, and 5000 sheep, 1000 fewer.
Lamb numbers increased substantially and quality was quite good in all categories. Trade lambs were in reasonable supply with good numbers of young shorn supplementary fed lambs.
Well-shaped trade lambs were keenly sought by several domestic processors, while plainer lambs lacking finish or presenting dry in the wool also sold to strong demand. There was increased domestic competition, though not all major export and domestic buyers operated. Bidding strengthened as the market progressed for well-finished light and medium weight trade lambs, which was aided by stronger demand from select butcher orders and other domestic processors who have returned after a short absence.
Most of the heavy trade lambs averaged 543c/kg cwt, reaching a top price of $138. The 20-22kg cwt trade lambs were keenly sought by most domestic processors, with prices lifting $7 to average $124.60. Light weight plain lambs sold to spirited competition from processors, resulting in a dearer trend of $5-$7. Well-bred secondary lambs to turn-out sold to fewer store orders to average $94 and lambs to feed on reached a top price of $107.
Heavy export lambs were well-supplied, with plenty of lambs weighing more than 30kg cwt. Competition was very strong from northern and southern export buyers, who were all keen to acquire a market share. Heavy lambs made from $135-$148, to average from 532c/kg cwt. The bulk of the extra heavy lambs sold from $145-$184, averaging 518c/kg cwt.
Mutton numbers quality was very mixed, with all weights and grades represented. Merino ewes suitable for the trade were well-supplied and sold $8 dearer, from $72-$116. Heavy sheep were in short supply and all export buyers operated fully across this weight category. Heavy ewe mutton sold $6-$7 higher to average 359-383c/kg cwt. Heavy Merino wethers sold up to $20 dearer, from $112-$121, to average 402c/kg cwt. Heavy crossbred ewes made from $105-$128. There will be no sale next week due to Easter.
Hamilton lambs $5-$9 dearer
In Victoria at the Hamilton saleyards on Wednesday, the agents yarded 10,229 lambs, 886 fewer than last week.
The NLRS said it was a better yarding of finished lambs, with most 18-24kg cwt, in the 3 and 4 score range. The usual buyers were active with more enthusiasm, creating a dearer trend as bidding remained strong throughout the sale. Restockers did make purchases but found it harder to obtain numbers competing against the processors.
The light weight 1 and 2 score lambs sold $5-$7 dearer with the 12-18kg cwt making from $63-$108, averaging around 570c/kg cwt.
Medium trade lambs 3 and 4 scores, 18-22kg cwt, were $7-$9 dearer, making from $104-$125 to range from 545-560c/kg cwt. The heavier 22kg-plus 4 score lambs were $9-$12 dearer, selling from $127-$161, or from 528-550c/kg.
The best hoggets made from $100-$105. This was the last week of split lamb-sheep sales in Hamilton for the year and there is no sale next week due to Easter.
Horsham lambs rebound $5-$10
At the Horsham saleyards on Wednesday, the agents yarded 4815 lambs, 571 more than last week, and 1967 sheep, 128 more.
The NLRS said lamb quality was mixed. The usual buyers attended and operated strongly on the better presented trade and heavy lambs. Prices rebounded to be from $5-$10 up on last week and more in places.
Trade weight Merino lambs sold from $87-$120. Restocking activity was limited to a few pens of lambs selling from $98-$105.50. Light weight 1 and 2 score lambs sold from $82-$87. Light trade 2 and 3 score lambs sold from $94-$115. Trade weight 3 and 4 score lambs sold from $106-$126, with the heavier weights making $120-$143, to range from 500-580c/kg cwt, average around 550c/kg. Heavy 3 and 4 score lambs sold from $142-$163 to average around 540c/kg. Heavy hoggets made to $105.
Sheep quality was mixed, with most sheep selling to a dearer trend. Lighter Merino ewes were keenly sought and made close to 400c/kg cwt. Light weight 1 and 2 score sheep sold from $45-$70. Medium weight 2 and 3 score sheep sold from $66-$98, from 300-400c/kg, to average around 350c/kg cwt. Heavy 3 to 5 score sheep sold from $85-$103. Heavy Merino wethers made from $78-$110 and the medium weights sold from $79-$97. Heavy Merino rams sold to $89. There will be no sale next week due to Easter.
Hamilton sheep up to $4 dearer
At the Hamilton saleyards on Thursday, the agents yarded 5736 sheep, 355 more than last week.
The NLRS said it was a mixed quality yarding of mutton. The usual processors were present, though some of the heavier export buyers did not operate. Half the yarding consisted of medium weight 2 to 3 score sheep, with some good lines of Merino wethers and ewes.
The market had a firm to dearer trend with light sheep prices unchanged to $1-$2 better. Medium weight mutton sold $4 dearer and the heavy sheep were $2-$4 dearer. Restocker activity was minimal, although a local buyer did buy some sheep. Light weight 1 and 2 score sheep sold from $35-$74, fluctuating from 290-320c/kg cwt. Medium weight 2 and 3 score mutton sold from $70-$88, to average around 350c/kg. Heavy 3 and 4 score sheep made from $88-$104, or 320-330c/kg. Prime Merino wethers sold from $87-$99, estimated at 360c/kg. The best rams made from $50-$67.
Ouyen trade lambs $5-$8 dearer
At the Ouyen Livestock Exchange on Thursday, the agents offered 10,295 lambs and 2070 sheep.
Prices for export and trade weight lambs were slightly dearer, while store and light lambs sold $5-$8 dearer. Mutton prices lifted $8-$10.
Crossbred export lambs sold from $128-$169 or 500-520c/kg cwt, the trade weights made $98-$125 or 500–540c/kg and the store-light lambs ranged from $80-$97 or 550–580c/kg.
Light mutton sold from $46-$90 or 300-380c/kg cwt and the heavy sheep made $88-$122 or 330-350 c/kg.
Mt Gambier trade lambs $7 dearer
In SA at the Mt Gambier saleyards on Thursday, the agents yarded 2140 lambs, 296 more than last week, and 303 sheep, 117 more.
The NLRS said the usual trade and processor support was present and an additional order added strength to the restocker section. Large numbers of lambs in store condition were offered and prices fluctuated. Lightweight lambs to the trade ranged from $58-$96 and stronger restocker buyers purchasing a large number from $42-$108. Merino lambs sold from $54-$71, with the lighter weights being up to $6 easier. Trade weight 2 and 3 score lambs ranged from $97-$120 at an average of 495c/kg cwt. The few pens of heavy 4 score lambs ranged from $121-$155, up to $7 dearer in places. Hoggets mainly sold from $82-$94, with some wethers making $96 and rams to $20. Only a small number of ewes came forward. The lighter types sold from $42-$46 and the heavier ewes made $86-$90.
Katanning mutton $10-$15
In WA at the Katanning saleyards on Wednesday, the agents yarded 8419 lambs, 5296 more than last week, and 7138 sheep, 3269 more.
The NLRS said mutton quality was better with a greater selection of very heavy ewes that sold for as much as $10-$15 above last week’s rates. Competition was very solid from a full field of buyers and was reflected through the prices which rose for most of the yarding.
The very light store lambs were mostly Merino that made $30-$76, to be $5 dearer. Light lambs, 18kgs cwt and under, sold to processors, restockers and feeders from $65-$107 and were also $5 dearer. Trade lambs 18-22kg were also firm to slightly dearer, with most sales from $92-$118 to average 540c/kg cwt. The heavy lambs remained firm and sold to a top of $120 to be nearer 510c/kg.
Ewe prices were $10-$15 dearer, with light ewes making $49-$69. The 2 score processor mutton made $60-$92 and the better 3 and 4 score mutton sold from $68-$110 to be very close to 340c/kg cwt. Wether prices were solid. Better export wethers sold from $92-$115 and store drafts made $57-$84. Rams sold to solid competition, with ram lambs making to $90 and young drafts to feeders selling from $35-$65. Old rams sold for $56-$90 to processors.
Sources: MLA, NLRS, AuctionsPlus.