LOWER supply continues to underpin solid saleyard demand for lambs and mutton across Australia this week despite less demand from some export sectors.
Although export demand for heavy lambs is being affected by the loss of cruise ship and overseas food service demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, buyers are still paying up to 800-850c/kg-plus for good quality lines, with some releasing forward contracts into winter of up to 900c/kg.
Trade lamb rates have stayed firm this week, generally ranging from 850-900c/kg, and some domestic processors are also buying up into the 26kg-plus lines to get quality for cuts.
Restocking demand has been limited in some saleyards – although not in the south — partially because it is traditionally a slower period for restockers and the current prices, but also as many lines are being marketed online. In some saleyards, restockers and feedlotters are reportedly buying through processor buyers due to COVID-19 restrictions on saleyard attendances.
But it is the lighter 12-18kg Middle East Kill, MK or bag lambs, that have more consistently maintained their prices, with preferred lines, Merino or crossbred, making 1000c/kg-plus and up to 1200c/kg, to be competitive with recent online sales.
Despite only a few exporters operating strongly on sheep – Fletcher International Exports and Cedar Meats — strong overseas demand and limited supply has kept rates at 650-700c/kg plus, with more being paid per cwt for lighter and medium weight lines.
According to Meat & Livestock Australia, eastern states lamb slaughter for the week ending 17 April was down 6 percent to 244,657 week-on-week, and 20pc down year-on-year. ES mutton slaughter over the same period was also down 6pc to 51,531 head, 51pc down year-on-year.
After Tuesday’s saleyard sales, MLA’s National Livestock Reporting Service quoted its Processor Lamb (CV19) Indicator as down 6 cents to $214 a head. The Restocker Lamb (CV19) Indicator was back 2 cents to $159/head. The Mutton (CV19) Indicator was quoted back 0.1pc to $180/head.
More heavy lamb product staying onshore
FP Nevins and Co director and auctioneer, James Nevins at Bendigo, said prices were cheaper for the heavy end of the export lambs this week, but trade weights, feedlot-type and bag lambs were well-sought after in Monday’s market.
Mr Nevins said more product from the heavy lambs was staying onshore, with some going to China, the United States and parts of Europe, but cuts such as racks would usually go into the depressed cruise ship trade.
Bag lambs down to 12 kg cwt were being sought by a range of exporters, he said.
“We might have had some go for close to 1200c/kg in our sale on Monday.”
Mr Nevins said the current rates for restocker lambs is taking some buyers out of the market, as they balk at paying up to about 1000c/kg for turn-out lambs when the market is indicating the return price might be 800-850c/kg later on. He said skins are “pretty well worthless.”
Mr Nevins said he had seen an export lamb contract of 850-900c/kg for August released last week by a processor, but then pulled unfilled in a few days, as the company reconsidered its position.
He said the mutton job was “off the planet” although there were only a few main players.
He said demand for trade lambs was still good — with more lines being grain-fed and “supermarket-friendly” – but provided lambs are within the correct weight range.
Lack of supply taking pressure off prices
Forbes Livestock and Agency Co’s Randal Grayson said the weight of lamb and sheep numbers was not an issue in saleyards currently.
“If there was a normal supply (of lambs) at this time of the year, there would be a bit of pressure on this job, but the moment the low numbers is keeping it stronger than where they want it to be,” he said.
He said although exporters was struggling with overseas demand, domestic demand was strong with supermarkets still putting out contracts around 900c/kg for June.
“That shows they still want to shore up a bit of supply and are happy to put $9-plus out, which is outstanding.
“It just shows you what this market could have been without this coronavirus – it was something that was unforeseen – and it would have been unbelievably good.”
Mr Grayson said lamb prices were still good, with heavy lines making more $300 at Forbes on Tuesday.
“There are still plenty of heavy lambs making in the high $200s – in the $270-$280s.
“But for the in-between bracket of the heavy trade-light export lambs — 25-29kg – if the quality is good they will sell well, but if they are a little bit off, they are the ones that are probably seeing the biggest drops in the market.”
He said MK-type lambs were very strong.
“Any of your Merino types and MK lambs 12-17kg cwt are selling unbelievably well.”
He said the trade lambs rates were a little back this week at Forbes, but were still very strong, making up to 900c/kg. Exporters were still paying 800-850c/kg for the heavy lambs.
“It’s a really good market considering the times we are in.”
Bendigo export lambs $10-$20 cheaper
In Victoria at the Bendigo saleyards, the agents yarded 18,800 lambs, 11,560 more than last week, and 5800 sheep, 1400 more.
The NLRS said the supply of heavy export lambs over 30kg cwt was limited, but there was still reasonable numbers of medium and heavy weight trade lines.
All the regular buyers attended, but showed just steady interest, and the market opened cheaper before improving for the better quality types later.
Agents quoted export lambs as $10-$20 cheaper, and domestic lines varied from $10 easier to firm on a fortnight ago. Some of the strongest competition shown by processors was for lines of MK or ‘bag’ lambs weighing 14-18kg. These light weights recorded the highest carcase weight prices.
Heavy export lambs sold up to $275 for crossbreds estimated at 33kg cwt, with no skin value. Most of the heavy lambs sold under $250 at $210-$240, selling to export and domestic processing orders at weights up to 27kg cwt. There was a quote of heavy lambs at 760-810c/kg.
The best drafts of domestic lambs, mostly grain-assisted, sold from $180-$210 with most estimated at 780-820c/kg by agents and buyers. Some select pens of nicely-weighted trade lambs sold at higher carcase rates.
Merino lambs displaying good finish sold to $234, with most of the better quality trade pens making $160-$220, depending on size and potential skin return. Agents quoted a ballpark rate of 740c/kg for Merino lambs. Bidding for any lines of light weight lambs suiting MK processing orders was strong at $140-$170, with some buyers reporting average costs of around 950c/kg. Very small and plain lambs made $100-$130.
The sheep yarding featured some very good runs of heavy Merino wethers that sold from $170-$220. Heavy Merino ewes made $165-$246 and big crossbred ewes sold from $170-$240. Trade sheep made $135-$154. The sale was rated dearer on carcase weight rates, with most sheep making well over 700c/kg. The stronger rates were driven by a handful of mutton exporters, with other buyers only securing minimal numbers. Please note only lamb data is included in report.
Dubbo restocker lambs firm to $2 dearer
In New South Wales at the Dubbo saleyards on Monday, the agents yarded 6000 lambs, 1400 fewer than last week, and 3200 sheep, 1460 more.
The NLRS said lamb quality remained good. Trade and heavy lambs were still well-supplied and there more good store lambs.
Processors were active on the better lambs and feeders were strong on the secondary lambs. All the usual buyers operated in the firm market for light and trade lambs, but heavy lamb prices eased with the weaker competition. Lambs sold to restockers and feeders were firm to $2 dearer and ranged from $56-$205 for feeder lines.
Most trade lambs up to 24kg were firm to $4 cheaper at $165-$205. The heavy weights fell $10-$12 with weaker competition from processors. Trade weights made $200-$272, averaging 860-900c/kg, and heavy lambs sold for 780-850c/kg.
Mutton quality was mixed. Prices were firm across most grades with most sheep averaging 670-720c/kg. Ewes started at $80, selling up to $272 for crossbreds and to $201 for Merinos. Wethers sold to $226.
Tamworth’s domestic lambs $10-$15 cheaper
In NSW at the Tamworth saleyards on Monday, the agents yarded 2230 lambs, 1330 more than last week, and 1220 sheep, 800 more.
The NLRS said lambs suitable for restockers and processors were well-supplied and quality was mostly good for the regular buyers attending.
Restocker lambs remained close to firm on pre-Easter levels, with light weights making $104-$163. The heavier weights made $170-$214. Well-finished lambs sold to processors and local butchers were $10-$15 cheaper in places.
The heaviest lambs sold from $225-$285. These were a pen of Dorpers estimated by agents to weigh well over 30kg cwt. Quite a few lambs suitable to the trade made $175-$218.
Light weight ewes attracted strong restocker competition to sell to a dearer trend. Demand from processors was down, resulting in a slightly cheaper trend, due to quality and weight.
Ballarat’s trade and heavy lambs $5-$6 dearer
In Victoria at the Ballarat saleyards on Tuesday, the agents yarded 21,400 lambs, 3100 fewer than last week, and 1,000 sheep, 3000 more.
The NLRS said lamb quality was plain to very good. All the usual buyers attended and there was good competition on all trade weights, and on light lambs to fill store and MK orders.
There was not as much weight in the heavy lambs and lines over 30kg sold to $292. Agents reported light lambs going back to the paddock and MK orders as selling extremely well to be firm to slightly dearer.
Light trade weights, 18-22kg, sold firm to $5 dearer. The 22-24kg lines sold firm to $6 dearer. The neat well-presented short skinned trade lambs made 850-880c/kg.
Heavy trade lambs, 24-26kg, sold firm to $5 dearer. Heavy lambs, 26-30kg, sold $5-$8 dearer and extra heavy export lambs over 30kg were firm.
Sheep quality was average to very good. Agents reported the market as fully firm. A pen of extra heavy crossbred wethers made $300. Merino wethers sold from $65-$265 and Merino ewes from $60-$288. Crossbred wethers made $166-$300 and crossbred ewes to $293.
Forbes store lambs dearer
In NSW at the Forbes saleyards on Tuesday, the agents yarded 12,279 lambs, 3621 more than last week, and 2182 sheep, 418 fewer.
The NLRS said lamb quality was described as very good, with plenty of well-finished and store lambs available.
The usual buyers competed in another strong market. Store lambs continue to attract interest and sold to a dearer trend to make $100-$200. Trade weight lambs sold firm at $192-$218 or 850-890c/kg. Heavy export lambs also sold steady at $220-$302, or 800-820c/kg.
Mutton demand continued to be strong, with light sheep making $130-$160. The heavier lines sold from $170-$270. Wethers made $178-$224.
Dublin extra heavy weight lambs drop $20-$25
On Tuesday at the South Australian Livestock Exchange, the agents yarded 7000 lambs, 4000 more than last week, and 1500 sheep, 500 more.
The NLRS said lamb quality was fair to good for a smaller field of trade and processor buyers.
There were fewer Merino lambs and crossbred quality was described as very good, with lamb carcase prices estimated at 700-760c/kg. Light lambs eased $5-$10 to $90-$125, medium weights eased $10-$15 to $130-$150 and heavy weights made $160-$200. Extreme heavy weights sold from $244, down $20-$25 on the previous sale. Heavy Merino lambs were less affected and eased by $10-$15 to a top price of $200.
Sheep quality was reported to be good; however, prices eased by $5-$10. Woolly Merino wethers made to $186, light ewes sold from $100-$130 and mostly firm. Rams also remained firm at $120-$200. Please note that sales data could not be obtained for this report.
Naracoorte’s best Merino lambs make to $220
In SA at the Naracoorte saleyards on Tuesday, the agents yarded 7053 lambs, 3981 more, and 1881 sheep, 595 more.
The NLRS said the mixed quality lamb offering which sold to the usual trade and processor buyers.
There was more activity from restockers this week sourcing lambs to grow on. Lambs sold firm to cheaper.
Light lambs sold to the trade for $155-$185 and store types made to $176 with paddock restockers. Light lambs sold into a feedlot for up to $182.
Medium weight trade lambs sold from $176-$210, or around 850c/kg. Heavy lambs made $230-$255 at around 780c/kg. Light weight Merino lambs sold from $118-$133 and the medium weights made $154-$170. The best of the heavy Merino lambs sold to $220, at 760-800c/kg.
Sheep prices were again very solid. Heavy sheep sold from $205-$220 at 680c/kg and the medium weights made $152-$201 at around 700c/kg. Light sheep, and mostly Merinos, sold from $67-$123, wethers made to $220 and rams sold from $80-$140.
Muchea mutton eases $3-$5
In Western Australia at the Muchea saleyards on Tuesday, the agents yarded 6000 lambs, 3500 more than last week, and 6000 sheep, 4500 more.
The NLRS said the market was firm for trade lambs that sold at near 700-720c/kg, topped by a pen estimated 28kg cwt that made $195.
Light 13-17kg airfreight-type lambs sold mainly from $60-$120. The 18-20kg lambs made $126-$150.
The 21-22kg lambs sold from $150-$166 and the very few heavier lambs over 23kg made $170-$195, with all types firm. Ram lambs sold from $97-$189. Light weight store Merino lambs sold generally firm to graziers and the ewe lambs made $30-$130. Merino wether lambs made $40-$130.
The mutton market eased by $3-$5 and sold at near to 600c/kg and was topped by a pen of heavy wethers with estimated to weight 40kg at $192. The best hoggets sold firm to the trade at $140-$166.
Top prime young joined Merino ewes sold to graziers for $170-$190. The best wethers were down $3-$5, at $150-$192. In the ewe mutton market, the light boners, 14-17kg, sold from $40-$70. Medium weight boners up to 23kg made $80-$130 and the 24-30kg lines sold from $150-$190, all down $3-$5. The ram market improved, with the best making 97-$120, up $10.
Tasmanian store lamb prices at record levels
On Tuesday at the northern Tasmanian markets of Powranna and Killafaddy, the agents yarded 700 lambs, 560 more than last week, and 500 sheep, 100 more.
The NLRS the lamb market was very strong with few heavy lambs and restockers very active as the autumn shapes as one of the best for many years.
Restockers paid from $66-$94 for very small lambs, $100-$149 for light weights, $140-$168 for light trade and $164-$180 for trade lambs weighing 18-22 kg. These store lamb prices are at record levels for these saleyards.
Processors paid from $159-$165 for light trade lambs, $176-$187 for heavy lines and $186-$198 for a few extra heavy pens.
Most sheep sold $4-$5 dearer than the last sale. Extra heavy sheep made $190-$198, heavy weights sold from $160-$180 and the medium weights made $134-$164. Light weight sheep sold from $118-$124 and very light weights made $80-$90.
Source: MLA, NLRS.