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Lamb supply balance is key with limited workforce

Sheep Central, February 9, 2022

Plasto and Co sold these heavy lambs for K.G. and K. Boland, Wellington, for $258 at the Dubbo saleyards on Monday.

SHEEP and lamb saleyard prices were still at the mercy of processor workforce limitations this week, with fluctuations relating to supply and quality.

Agents are reporting that many processors are still struggling to get back to capacity due to Omicron infections, as the overall saleyard offering increased while contract lamb backlogs are worked through.

When workforce-limited demand and less competition meets increased supplies, especially when quality drops, agents said they have been warned prices would suffer. Buyers are showing their usual preference for well-finished shorn lambs coming off feed or crops over drier woolly lambs from rain-affected old pasture.

However, Meat & Livestock Australia’s National Livestock Reporting Service reported strengthening demand at the Hamilton and Horsham sales today.

At Bendigo on Monday, with 3000 more lambs and Woolworths not buying, other buyers were selective, resulting in heavy slaughter lambs over 24kg cwt falling $15-$25 and lighter weight lambs easing $7-$10. Meat & Livestock Australia’s National Livestock Reporting Service said the slaughter lambs mostly affected by the cheaper trend either lacked consistent fat cover or were in plainer dry skins. Buyers showed a preference for recently shorn and fed lambs.

With a reduced lamb offering at Dubbo on Monday, the NLRS reported trade lambs as $10-$15 cheaper, while the good quality heavy weights started the sale on a much dearer note, but weakened as the sale progressed to finishing firm to $8 dearer.

At Ballarat yesterday with an increased yarding and all the usual buyers active but selective, lambs in wool needing finish sold $5-$10 cheaper, the NLRS said. Neat shorn lambs with good finish or ready to feed on sold well, ending a few dollars either side of firm. Light trade lambs were firm to $3 stronger, medium trade were firm to slightly softer and heavy trade sold firm to $5 cheaper in places. Export lambs sold mostly firm.

However, at Hamilton today, with the lamb offering almost halving to 13,021 (down 10,640) and most shorn lines, the NLRS said the near full field of buyers were active with more urgency. They showed a preference for shorn lines and restocking competition was stronger.

Hamilton’s lighter weight lambs returning to the paddock sold $10 stronger and all other categories to the trade were firm to up to $5/head dearer. Light lambs 12-16kg made $137-$169 and most returned to the paddock. Trade lambs 18-22kg sold from $150-$180 averaging around 820-900/kg cwt. Medium trade lambs 22-26 kg made $170-$216/head averaging around 820-860/kg cwt and heavy lambs over 26 kg made to $255.

Bendigo agent James Nevins said processors are struggling to find increased kill space due to their virus-affected workforces as the saleyard offering increased.

“There are plenty of numbers around, all the buyers are saying there are plenty of numbers in the north and there are still quite heavy numbers in the south.”

Mr Nevins said there are still some lovely drafts of lambs coming in with more weight coming into sale lines, but with the decline in pasture quality, producers with lambs will be going into feeder programs.

“The lambs are showing good bloom, but it will probably change with more warmer weather.”

Forbes agent Tim Mackay said Forbes and Dubbo got away with reasonable markets this week, compared to southern saleyards.

“Workforces (in processors) are still a big issue … none of them are at full capacity, if we g=could get them all at full capacity it would keep this lamb job from sliding.

“And there is a bit of a backlog of lambs coming,” he said.

“I think we are going to have our good and bad weeks; it’s going to fluctuate around a bit.

“The heavy lambs are not going to get much north of $8/kg for a while until everyone is at their proper capacity.”

Bendigo’s heavy lambs $15-$25 cheaper

At the Bendigo saleyards, the agents yarded 13,500lambs, 3000 more, and 7500 sheep, 3700 more.

The NLRS said lamb quality was not as good, with less well-fed trade and export types, and demand was weaker. One major domestic buyer was absent, and although all other companies were represented, bidding was selective and the market lacked drive. Heavy slaughter lambs over 24kg were $15-$25 cheaper. Lighter weight lambs held their value better to be $7-$10 easier, while the best shorn store lambs were firm. The slaughter lambs mostly affected by the cheaper trending the market either lacked consistent fat cover or were in plainer dry skins. Buyers still showed a preference for recently shorn and fed lambs.

The heaviest lambs over 30kg from $240-$267 in a plainer run compared to last Monday. Depending on weight and breed these lambs showed a range of 730-800c/kg cwt for an average of 770c/kg. Heavy lambs, 26-30kg, varied from $204-$248. There were reasonable numbers of heavy trade crossbred lambs, 24-26kg, that sold from $190-$226 to average $210 at a ballpark cost of 808c/kg. Medium trade lambs at $171-$208 had an estimated price average of just over 800c/kg, but plenty of lambs sold for less than 800c/kg. Some plainer types and odd pen lots of a few head made down to 700c/kg.

Competition for store lambs remained reasonable, with the better bred and framed types making $135-$170.

The mutton sale was cheaper and erratic, with only a few buyers following the market. Heavy sheep made $150-$190. The general run of Merinos and crossbred ewes sold from $130-$160 and light sheep varied from $36-$120 as competition fell away in spots.

Dubbo trade lambs $10-$15 cheaper

At the Dubbo saleyards on Monday, the agents yarded 8940 lambs, 2960 fewer than last week, and 6850 sheep, 165 less.

The NLRS said it was a very mixed yarding with some good heavy weight lambs penned along with only odd pens of ideal trade weights. There were also good numbers of secondary crossbred and White Dorper lambs penned. Merino lambs were in limited supply. Most of the usual buyers operated.

Trade lambs were $10-$15 cheaper, trade weight old lambs making $140-$220 to average 815-845c/kg. Heavy weight lambs started on a much dearer note, but weakened as the sale progressed to finish firm to $8 dearer. Lambs over 24kg sold from $212-$266 and the extra heavy weights averaged 775c/kg.

Merino lambs were $7 cheaper, with trade weights selling from $147-$186. Restocker lambs sold at similar rates, with young lambs for fattening making $72-$183.

Suffolk ewe lambs and hoggets sold to restockers for $380. White Dorper ewe lambs were also popular, selling to restockers for $174-$262. Hoggets sold to $196.

Most grades were represented in a mixed yarding of mutton and sold $8-$14 cheaper. Merino ewes sold from $60-$214 and crossbred ewes made $130-$210. Merino wethers sold from $100-$202. The restockers paid $110-$168 for Merino ewes and to $280 for Suffolk ewes. The restockers also paid $75-$168 for Aussie White and White Dorper ewes.

Well-finished young lambs firm to dearer at Tamworth

At the Tamworth saleyards on Monday, the agents yarded 20000 lambs, 500 more than last week, and 450 sheep, 550 fewer.

The NLRS said the quality of the lambs was very mixed, with a few pens of well-finished young lambs and several pens of heavy and extra heavy weight old lambs. The usual buyers attended.

Market trends varied through the lambs, with the good quality young lambs selling to restockers on a slightly cheaper trend, with plainer quality lots most affected. Well-finished young lambs sold firm to slightly dearer to the trade, with some weight and quality-related price change. There was weaker demand for secondary quality old lambs and they sold to a cheaper trend.

The better quality and condition medium and heavy weight lambs were mostly cheaper. There was no market comparison the extra heavy weights.

The limited supply of grown sheep sold firm to dearer, with variations for quality.

Export lambs firm at Ballarat

At the Ballarat saleyards on Tuesday, the agents yarded 27,250 lambs, 2484 more than last week, and 9535 sheep, 1919 more.

The NLRS said lamb quality was mixed, ranging from plain to very good. All the usual buyers were active, although selective on lambs in wool needing finishing, which sold $5-$10 cheaper.

The neat shorn lambs with good finish or ready to feed on sold well, ending a few dollars either side of firm. Light trade lambs sold firm to $3 stronger, the medium trades were firm to slightly softer and heavy trades were firm to $5/head cheaper in places.

Export lambs sold well to be mostly firm and up to $284. Store buyers were active, with lambs back to the paddock and to feed making $60-$217, up to $5/head stronger in places. Light lambs under 18kg suiting MK orders sold from $138-$150. Trade lambs 18-22kg made $168-$203, the 22-24kg lines sold from $190-$215 and 24-26kg lambs made $210-$234/head, with an average range of 840-870c/kg. Export lambs over 26-30kg made $227-$277 and the over 30kg lots sold from $264-$284, averaging 830-850c/kg.

Sheep quality was mixed. Most of the usual buyers were active. Overall, the market was $8-$15 cheaper. The limited heavy Merino wether offering made $160-$173 to average 580c/kg. Heavy Merino ewes sold from $118-$170 to average 550-580c/kg and heavy crossbred mutton made $139-$191, or 540-560c/kg.

Forbes trade and heavy lambs back $5-$7

At the Forbes saleyards on Tuesday, the agents yarded 214,350 lambs, 6700 fewer than last week, and 4900 sheep, 750 more.

The NLRS said there was another excellent offering of export and heavy lambs along with plainer types. The usual buyers competed in an easier market.

Trade weight lambs slipped $5-$7, with 20-24kg lines selling from $178-$214. Heavy lambs were back $5 and those to 26kg made $210-$231. Heavy export lambs were firm to $2 easier at $223-298 on a superb offering. Carcase prices averaged 790-830c/kg.

Mutton quality continued to be mixed in the mostly Merino offering. Merino ewes sold from $132-$209 and crossbreds made $150-$194.

Dublin lamb prices erratic

At the South Australian Livestock Exchange at Dublin yesterday, the agents yarded 8000 lambs, 1500 more, and 1300 sheep, 100 fewer.

The NLRS said lamb quality was fair to good, with more crossbred heavy weights, that sold up to $282. Competition was good from a full field of trade buyers, specialty butchers and restockers.

Pricing was erratic from the outset; however, extreme heavy weights remained firm to slightly dearer in places and the best of the trade lambs also sold to a dearer trend. Store pricing also improved, reflecting the better quality throughout the sale. Extremely light young lambs sold from $52-$72 and light weights made $65-$133.

Trade weight lambs sold from $160-$178 and the best heavy weights made to $216. Extremely light older lambs sold from $102-$134 and light weights made $130-$146. Light trade weights sold from $136-$160 and medium trade weights made $160-$177. Good trade weights made $176-$209 and heavy trade weights sold from $200-$223. Extreme heavy weights sold from $205-$282.

Medium weight hoggets sold from $105-$177 and heavy weights peaked at $231. Light ewe mutton sold to $70, medium weights made $82-$141 and heavy weights sold from $120-$160. Medium weight wethers sold from $120 to $180 and heavy weights made to $184.

Naracoorte lambs $3-$5 cheaper

At the Naracoorte saleyards yesterday, the agents yarded 4437 lambs, 1418 fewer, and 1440 sheep, 840 more.

The NLRS said the offering sold to a slightly smaller field of trade and processor buyers and some active restockers. Quality was very mixed, with something to suit all orders but at easier rates.

Light lambs-the trade made from $92-$165 with the lightweight trade 2 and 3 scores reaching $173/head. Restockers sourced light Merino lambs at $96-$135, light crossbreds made $60-$150 and those with more condition made $164-$177.

Trade weight 3 score lambs made $176-$191, $3 cheaper, with most sales at 800-850c/kg. Heavy lambs sold from $188-$222, up to $5 cheaper. The extra heavy lots made $219-$260.

Hoggets made $140-$163 and light sheep sold from $48-$99. Medium weight sheep made $108-$130 and the heavy pens sold from $144-$176. Wethers made $148-$204 and rams sold from $50-$150.

Tasmania’s heavy lambs sell firm

In Tasmania yesterday, the agents yarded 1131 lambs, 188 more than last week, and 684 sheep, 186 more.

The NLRS said the offering was historically low as producers wait for some confidence to come back into the market. The few heavy and extra heavy lambs sold firm and trade lambs were a few dollars cheaper.

Restockers paid $80-$112 for very small lambs, $120-$125 for light lines, $130-$160 for light trade lambs and $160-$170 for trade weights. Processors paid $175-$200 for trade lambs and $196-$214 for heavy lambs.

With a regular exporter back in the sheep market after being absent since Christmas, the mutton market improved $15-$25. Extra heavy ewes made $148-$168, heavy lines $152-$160, medium weight ewes $138-$160 and the light end sold for $80-$108.

Processors keen for good heavy lambs at Muchea

At the Muchea saleyards yesterday, the agents yarded 8633 lambs, 1233 more than last week, and 5666 sheep, 413 fewer.

The NLRS said it was a mixed quality yarding, with processors keen to secure a good run of heavy lambs and feeders chasing good frame light weights and stores.

The heaviest lambs sold to $253. The under 12kg lambs gained value, with restockers picking up Merino wether lambs with a fleece for $57-$125. The under 16kg lambs made $70-$148 with demand fluctuating and heavier lambs under 18kg were dearer at $133-$165. Light trade weight lambs made $150-$239, with the heavier end going to processors. A quality run of heavy lambs made $190-$253.

Mutton demand eased, with quality heavy ewes selling to $206 and mature wethers making to $210. Hoggets prices eased to $148-$220 and young Merino wethers made $150-$189. Young Merino ewes sold from $132-$176. Light weight and store ewes sold from $50 for the very light score 1 ewes up to $155 for better framed ewes carrying a fleece. The prime trade weight 25-30kg ewes with a fleece made $150-$186. The heavy 30kg-plus ewes with a fleece sold from $180-$206. The best heavy wethers made $200-$210 and a large yarding of mature rams eased in value to make $80-$145.

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