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Lamb prices regain some lost ground in pre-Easter sales

Sheep Central, April 8, 2020

LAMB prices continued to climb this week as they regained ground from the recent supply-induced correction, when producers swamped markets due to uncertainty over the global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on demand.

Despite additional lambs coming into some markets, numbers dropped in most saleyards, especially after rain on the weekend in Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania.

Agents reported prices rises for most lamb categories. In some markets, the lamb price increases were related to quality, but the reduced supply and increased restocker competition on suitable lines this week also forced trade buyers to pay more.

Tim Mackay from the Forbes Livestock and Agency Co. said heavy lambs yesterday sold $10-$20 better and trade lambs were up $5-$10 due to quality and fewer numbers.

“They are making 850-900c/kg again.”

He said a lot of the recent price falls came from the extra numbers in the system.

“Some doors (export markets) are slowing down and others are opening back up again, so let’s hope that it balances enough that we can keep getting rid of it all.”

Mr Mackay expected lamb supply to tighten very quickly toward the end of April.

At Hamilton, Kerr & Co Livestock auctioneer Craig Pertzel said supply and demand will continue to drive the market, depending on what export markets stay open.

“You’ve got to remember 900c/kg (for lambs) was pretty special, it has very rarely been at that before.”

Mr Pertzel said with a fair few lambs contracted over the hooks, lamb supply into saleyards in south-west Victoria was “just about done” for April and May.

He expected the supply of trade lambs from the south would be short as winter approached.

At Wagga Wagga, Rodwell’s Ryan Schiller said he expected lamb supply to settle down after the recent rush of lambs onto the market. He said the market made some gains last week and the over-the-hook prices were also starting to creep up a bit.

“So we might have seen the bottom end of it for a little while.

“But we still have the great unknowns of how long are we going to be locked down for and whose got the money and who hasn’t to buy anything,” he said.

“That will be the next thing on the retail side of it, how much money is going to be out there for people to be able to sustain buying lamb products.”

After yesterday’s saleyard sales, Meat & Livestock Australia’s Livestock Market Reporting Service quoted its new national CV19 restocker lamb indicator as up three per cent from 699c/kg yesterday to 720c/kg. The national processor lamb indicator rose 0.9pc from 935c/kg yesterday to 943c/kg.

The national CV19 mutton indicator was quoted down 8pc from 677c/kg to 623c/kg.

Bendigo export lambs $10-$15 dearer

In Victoria at the Bendigo saleyards on Monday, the agents yarded 7240 lambs, 6260 fewer than last week, and 4400 sheep, 3600 less.

The National Livestock Reporting Service said widespread rain and the softer prices of the previous week combined to drastically reduce lamb numbers to the smallest sale held this year.

Quality remained good, boosted by some very good lines of heavy lambs off grain. Agents said the reduction in supply was mostly in the lighter weight types as plainer stock were held back for further finishing.

All the regular buyers attended and some only purchased limited numbers, but the significant drop in supply was enough to put more momentum into the market.

The main run of well finished trade weight lambs was quoted $10 dearer. Export lambs were also dearer – up $10-$15 – with the balance of the yarding quoted as firm, mainly 780-800c/kg. Extra heavy export lambs sold to $334 to be significantly dearer than recent weeks. A pen of 95 lambs was estimated to have a carcase weight of more than 40kg, making them some of the biggest lambs sold this autumn. A pen of charity lambs sold for the Royal Children’s Hospital Appeal made $300. Saleyard data shows most lambs to export processors made $230-$260, with just a few pens higher.

Competition was strongest for the 22-27kg trade weight lambs, that sold $10-$15 better. The lead pens sold from $190-$240 for averages of $210-$220 to the major domestic buyers. Buyers were costing these lambs at an estimated 840c-850c/kg. Better bred small lambs continued to sell from $100-$160 depending on size.

Heavy trade Merino lambs off grain sold $10 better up to $220, with the general run making $150-$190. The average estimate for a run of Merino lambs was 760c/kg after buyers allowed returns of up $20 for skin returns off the best pens.

The sheep sale included some very good lines of Merino wethers. Mutton prices were quoted as firm to $5-$10 dearer over the best pens of heavier sheep. Merino wethers with frame and weight, made from $172-$215 and big crossbred ewes sold from $191-$248. Most trade weight sheep made $160-$190 and light weight pens made $86-$136. Buyers were working on costings starting at 680c/kg for heavy mutton, rising to more than 700c/kg  on the feature lines of trade sheep.

Dubbo trade lambs $4-$5 dearer

In New South Wales at the Dubbo saleyards on Monday, agents yarded 4600 lambs, 1450 fewer than last week, and 1740 sheep, 840 less.

The NLRS said there was a good number of trade and heavy lambs. Lighter lambs were in short supply. The market sold to a dearer trend mainly due to the limited numbers.

Light lambs sold to restocker and feeder were dearer, with most lambs making $110-$185 and up to $203 for a feeder order.

Trade lambs were $4-$5 dearer and most sold from $168-$210. Heavy lambs lifted $4 and mostly made $207-$245, with extra heavy weights reaching $270.

Hoggets topped at $203. Mutton quality was mixed, but prices were dearer. Most of the medium and heavy sheep made $126-$170, heavy ewes sold to $237 and wethers to $222.

Tamworth market firm to dearer

At the Tamworth saleyards on Monday, the agents yarded 900 lambs, 960 fewer than last week, and 420 sheep, 1580 less.

The NLRS said lamb quality was fair to good, with a reasonable supply of well-finished lambs along with some good quality restocker lambs.

Demand was strong from the usual buyers throughout the lamb sale. Agents reported a firm to dearer market trend across most categories.

Restockers paid from $170-$200 for good quality crossbred lambs. Local trade lambs made from $170-$268 and export processors paid $235-$305.

Prices changed little for the sheep, with processors paying from $110-$250. Restockers were also active and paid from $123-$250. Please note sale data could not be obtained for this report.

Dublin lamb prices lift $10-$15

At the South Australian Livestock Exchange at Dublin on Tuesday, the agents yarded 3000 lambs, 500 more than last week, and 1000 sheep, 500 fewer.

The NLRS said the return of a prominent interstate operator lifted prices $10-$15 for the small but generally good quality offering.

Heavy cross bred lambs sold to $258, with agents estimating carcase prices at 800-850c/kg, with heavy Merino lambs topping at $200 for an estimated 800c/kg. Trade lambs around 24kg sold to $230 and store crossbred lambs made $80-$130. Merino lambs made $70-$130.

There was a $10 lift in mutton prices, with heavy ewes peaking at $200 and heavy wethers selling to $210. Light boning sheep were in demand and sold from $70-$110. This report has been compiled on reliable information from the SA Livestock Exchange.

Forbes extra heavy lambs $10-$12 dearer

In NSW at the Forbes saleyards on Tuesday, the agents yarded 12,950 lambs, 4730 more than last week, and 2500 sheep, 800 more.

The NLRS said lamb quality was described by agents as the best yarding in a long time with good numbers of quality finished lambs offered.

The usual buyers competed in a stronger market. Restockers were active on the plainer types, paying from $85-$196.

Trade weights were $5-$8 better with some of the better quality lambs lifting more. Prices ranged from $190-$215. Heavy lambs were $5 better at $215-$235. Extra heavy weight prices showed the biggest change, jumping $10-$12 on a quality offering to $230-$290.

Mutton quality was fair with some good lines of sheep available. Prices were $5-$10 better, with the best ewes reaching $250 and wethers selling to $269.

Ballarat store lamb buyers push prices up $5-$15

In Victoria at the Ballarat saleyards on Tuesday, the agents 18,832 lambs, 1232 more than last week, and 7072 sheep, 1828 fewer.

The NLRS said the lamb quality was mostly excellent, with a large portion of the yarding coming off feed.

All the usual buyers attended, but not all were fully active, with strong competition from store buyers lifting the market $5-$15.

Agents reported the market as mostly dearer, with light lambs going back to the paddock up $10 and light and medium trade lambs up $5-$6.

Heavy lambs were mixed, with the better quality selling firm to $5 dearer and the plainer types firm to slightly softer. The extra heavy export lambs sold $10-$15 dearer to reach $339 for a line with with an estimated carcase weight of over 40kg. Several pens made more than $300.

The mutton market was again very strong to be firm to $5 dearer, with not many extra heavy sheep on offer. Merino ewes sold to $258 and crossbred ewes to $278. Crossbred wethers sold from $90-$278 and Merino wethers made $115-$268. Rams sold to $158.

Naracoorte lambs lift

In South Australia at the Naracoorte saleyards yesterday, the agents yarded 1733 lambs, 2064 fewer than last week, and 1393 sheep, 22 more.

The usual buyer attended for the mixed quality offering. Lamb prices lifted and sheep sold at rates close to last week.

Light lambs made $115-$135, with the light weight trade types selling from $166-$182. Merino lambs made $168-$184 and the trade weight types sold from $195-$219 at about 860c/kg. Heavy lambs sold around 820c/kg to make $215-$247.

Hoggets sold to $153 and light ewes made $122-$150. Medium weight ewes sold from $176-$192 at about 650c/kg. The heavy ewes made $200-$212. Rams sold from $50-$140. Please note sales data could not be obtained for this report.

Muchea airfreight lambs lift $5

In Western Australia at the Muchea saleyards on Tuesday, the agents yarded 3500 lambs, 7000 fewer than last week, and 3000 sheep, 3000 fewer.

The NLRS said Muchea sheep and lamb yardings have dropped 20,000 in the last fortnight.

The NLRS said market values generally were firm to slight easier.

However, airfreight lambs that gained $5 for the small selection and heavy rams sold $20 to processors.

In the lamb section, light 13-17kg cwt lines sold mainly at $70-$130, up $5. The 18-20kg lambs sold at mainly $135-$150. The 21-22kg lines sold generally from $155-$175, with prime heavier lambs making to $180. All lambs made about 750c/kg cwt. The latter three lines were all marginally cheaper than last week.

The light weight store Merino lambs that sold to graziers were of a poorer quality, but prices were relatively firm. The ewe lambs mainly sold from $30-$120, with wether lambs making $40-$115.

The best hoggets sold to the trade for $130-$160, again a slight easing on a very limited supply. The best wethers sold from $130-$180. In the ewe mutton market, the light boners 14-17kg sold from $40-$70. Medium weights boners to 23kg sold from $80-$130. The 24-30kg sheep made $150-$180 and were very firm at almost 600c/kg. Heavy mutton sold to $180.

The NLRS said WA is a short processing week due-Easter and wholesalers are not moving as much product as the previous three weeks when hoarding by consumers was prevalent.

Northern Tasmanian lamb prices fully firm

At the northern Tasmanian saleyards at Powranna and Killafady on Tuesday, the agents yarded 330 lambs, 220 fewer than last week, and 440 sheep, 960 less, following very good follow up rains over most of the state.

The NLRS said numbers were expected to be much lower as interstate shipping finishes for Easter on Wednesday and processors aren’t keen to have sheep and lambs around their works over the longer than usual break.

Lamb prices were fully firm, mainly driven by restockers who are very keen to secure numbers as the crops grow quickly.

Restockers bought very small lambs for $72-$80, light weights made $105-$132 and trade weights sold from $138-$148.

Processors bought heavy lambs from $176-$192, trade weights from $152-$158 and light weights from $136-$139.

Three exporters competed keenly for the sheep yarding and prices were similar to a few dollars cheaper. Heavy ewes and wethers made $166 and medium weights made $126-$152 Light weight sheep sold from $98-$132 and very light weights made down to $88. There was some restocker interest on Merinos with a good skin and crossbred ewes to be finished.

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  1. Tom Casey, April 9, 2020

    Maybe you need to talk to the agents. They know what the lambs are weighing from the lambs they hook each week. This is information the NLRS doesn’t get.

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