Mixed lamb market results as rain and COVID-19 impacts hit

Sheep Central, August 3, 2020

Nutrien Livestock’s Toby Elliott sold 15 crossbred lambs for J. and J. Mooney at Tarago for $209.60.

LAMB and sheep prices generally lifted in saleyards last week as rainfall sucked supplies out of some northern markets, while exporter competition due to COVID-19 impacts firmed as plants planned the resumption of operations.

Earlier in the week at Bendigo, with a small winter quality yarding, there was some discounting of lambs with at least five companies not operating due to COVID-19 outbreaks and winter maintenance.

However, at Dubbo on the same day, a reduced, but good-sized yarding containing some well-finished lambs attracted bidding from most regular buyers and rates improved $5-$17 depending on category.

Demand at the South Australian Livestock Exchange at Dublin was dominated by graziers competing against exporters on light lambs consigned due to poor seasonal conditions and a lack of demand on heavier lambs dropped prices $20-$25.

Prices in most saleyards increased later in the week, except where quality or yarding size failed to attract buyer interest. The return to work of the Australian Lamb Company at Colac and JBS Australia’s Brooklyn plant after being hit by COVID-19 put more competition back into some saleyards. However, other companies unaffected by COVID-19 outbreaks are expected to have contracted supplies until the end of August.

By the end of the week, with the Eastern States Daily Indicators for all sheep and lamb categories had improved, especially for restocker, Merino and trade lambs, but heavy lambs suitable for depressed global markets remain the hardest to sell. The lamb ESDIs and weekly changes were: restocker 841c/kg, up 54 cents; Merino, 726c/kg, up 39 cents; light, 767c/kg, up 22 cents; trade, 787c/kg, up 40 cents, and; heavy, 708c/kg, up 26 cents. The ESDI for mutton finished on 598c/kg, up 11 cents week-on-week.

After lamb prices lifted by $15-plus at the Forbes saleyards, Forbes Livestock & Agency Co auctioneer Randall Grayson said it was a typical wet weather market after widespread rain in the drawing area.

“The other major contributing factor was an extra supermarket in the market.

“Due to coronavirus the week before, one of the major supermarkets wasn’t in the market and had to relocate to the north to get them killed,” he said.

“I’m a little bit hopeful that perhaps we might have seen the worst of it and when a few of these contracts come off, after that, I’m hoping there might be a few less numbers in the system, and the heavy lambs might improve a bit more.

“It was a nice little rise on the back of a very ordinary market, which was out of the hands of anyone in the industry,” he said.

“If there is any improvement it will be because there is room in the chillers and there is not just going to be the numbers.”

He described the money for new seasons lambs at Forbes, with most at $180-$190, was good for sales straight off ewes without shearing or any grain feeding.

Kevin Miller of Miller, Whitty Lennon and Co agreed the Forbes market rise was mainly weather-related, but he expected that if the weather dried out, saleyard numbers would lift and prices could ease again.

At the South Australian Livestock Exchange at Dublin, agent Garry Willson said the lamb market was “ordinary” last week, due to export plants hampered by COVID-19 infections in Victoria, with the lift in light lamb prices attributed to grazier restocker and export processor competition.

“There was just a bit of demand there from graziers chasing those good fresh sucker lambs and they made massive money, but the best good heavy lambs only made up to $186, but all the other suckers were very light.

“We had no ALC, no JBS, no Wagstaff, no Herd – it makes it pretty hard.

“We’ve only got Hardwicks, TFI and Midfield buying, and few wholesalers,” he said.

“There is just no spark in the job at all and we don’t know where it is going to come from.”

Mr Willson said the region’s season was “folding up big time”.

“North and to the west of Adelaide is in big strife, frost after frost after frost – I’m a 100 miles north of Adelaide and we haven’t had an inch of rain in July.”

He said producers on the west coast are starting to sell their 30-35kg lwt lambs as stores and most are going back to south-west Victoria.

“People are working out now do I sell them for $130-$135 or do a try to put 10 kilograms on them, but if I put 10 kilograms on them I don’t know if I am going to get any more money.”

TB White and Son auctioneer at Ballarat Xavier Bourke said the price increase this week was due to the lower numbers coming forward. He said clients with early pasture feed had bought light lambs out of South Australia on AuctionsPlus.

“But at $130-$135 we don’t know whether they are dear or cheap yet, do we?

“This time last year we were buying lambs out of Dubbo, but some blokes are selling lambs back up into that area,” he said.

“You are not going to get anything out of the north this year, it looks pretty good so far.”

At the Wagga Wagga saleyards on Thursday, lamb prices increased, despite a lift in the offering of about 8000 to 30,000. Riverina Livestock Agents auctioneer James Tierney estimated lamb prices were $5-$8 dearer across the categories, with good lifts in heavy old lambs and some of the old trade weight Merino lambs lifting up to $15.

He said no one buyer dominated bidding “but everyone was there” and the rain further north restricting numbers at other yards might have helped Wagga’s prices.

“But it does worry me a little bit if there are a heap in Dubbo and Forbes next week, by the time they get to us, we will probably yard that (number) again.”

But Mr Tierney expected prices might improve when more exporters clear their contract lambs “as long as a big one doesn’t go down.”

Bendigo prices hit by fewer buyers

In Victoria at the Bendigo saleyards on Monday, the agents yarded 3200 lambs, 6800 fewer than last week, and 2330 sheep, 330 more.

Meat & Livestock Australia’s National Livestock Reporting service said lamb numbers dropped away again as producers reacted to the cheaper rates on offer. It was a scrappy winter’s yarding, with just a few good lines of lambs available amid plainer types, the NLRS said.

The buying ranks remain affected by Covid-19 abattoir closures in Victoria and winter slowdowns at others, and at least five companies weren’t operating.

A positive was the return of a supermarket buyer, and the few ideally weighted domestic lambs in short skins were dearer. But the rest of the yarding, including export lambs, were only similar to even cheaper than a week ago. Agents passed in one lead run of extra heavy lambs off grain.

Heavy export lambs over 30kg made $180-$200. Most medium and heavy trade lambs fluctuated from $155-$180. Small pen lots of mixed lambs were heavily discounted at times. A few pens of new season young lambs sold to $181 and neat trade weights made 700-770c/kg cwt.

Most of the lambs sold to processors tracked under 680c/kg, with the heaviest exports lambs below 600c/kg. Trade weight Merino lambs with good cover made $158-$166 to be around 600c/kg.

The sheep market fluctuated around quality and weight. Extra heavy crossbred ewes sold at cheaper rates from $156-$188. Merino wethers offered processors the biggest runs of better quality, and made $155-$190, or around 580c/kg. Merino ewes with weight and condition made $145-$195.

Dubbo lamb prices get boost from good rain

In New South Wales at the Dubbo saleyards on Monday, the agents yarded 12,700 lambs, 10,900 fewer than last week, and 2820 sheep, 2080 less.

The NLRS said up to 40mm of weekend rain in some districts reduced numbers.

It was a good quality yarding with good numbers of heavy weight lambs and a better selection of trade weights. There were also some good runs of well-finished new season lambs along with some good Merinos. Most of the regular buyers operated.

Light weight lambs sold $12 dearer to processors, with the 12kg-18kg 2 scores making $128-$155.

Trade lambs were $17 dearer and more in places, with the trade weight old lambs making $155-$188, or 725-770c/kg. Trade weight new season lambs were up to $23 dearer at $170-$195.

Heavy weight lambs were firm $5 dearer, with the 24kg-30kg lambs selling from $166-$196, and lambs over 30kg made $206-$220, or around 650c/kg. Merino lambs were $9-$15 dearer, with trade weights making $145-$179. A single pen of first cross ewe lambs sold to a restocker for $230. Hoggets sold to $180.

It was a mostly good quality sheep yarding, also affected by rain. Medium weight sheep were firm to $3 dearer and heavy weight sheep were $6-$7 cheaper. Merino ewes sold from $90-$176 and crossbred ewes made $105-$182. Merino wethers sold to $170.

Restockers were active on suitable lines of ewes and paid $156-$169 for Merinos and $171 for crossbreds.

Tamworth lambs lift $8-$9

At the Tamworth saleyards on Monday, the agents yarded 2500 lambs, 1500 fewer.

The NLRS said it was a good quality penning of mostly well-finished lambs with good supplies of crossbred and Merino lambs. There were odd pens of new season lambs in the offering. The usual buyers attended and demand increased in the wet weather.

The increased demand brought about dearer market trends for all classes of crossbred lambs. Prices improved by $8-$9 across most weight classes. The exception was Merino lambs, which sold to a slightly cheaper trend with a marked improvement in quality. The NLRS said there were insufficient sheep-quote.

Ballarat lamb prices lift $10-$20

At Ballarat on Tuesday, the agents yarded 3900 lambs, 999 more, and 1800 sheep, 1740 fewer.

The NLRS said lamb quality was plain to good, with several clean-up pens and not a lot of weight on offer.

Not all the usual buyers attended, but the market was much stronger this week and prices increased $10-$20 in places.

Heavy lambs sold to $193 and most sold from $160-$188 for the sought after trade weights. Lambs sold back to the paddock sold from $99-$158. Light lambs sold from $84-$138.

Trade lambs, 18-22kg, sold from $148-$176, and the 22-24kg lambs, sold from $174-$180, at 727-791c/kg, to average around 765c/kg. The 4 score lambs, 24-26kg, sold from $175-$185, to average around 720c/kg. Heavy 26-30kg lambs sold from $182-$193.

The sheep quality was good and the market was mostly firm to dearer. Good quality runs of Merino wethers were offered. Merino ewes sold from $107-$170 to be $10 dearer in places at 625c/kg. Crossbred ewes sold from $96-$191 to be $4 dearer, or around 565c/kg. Merino wethers sold from $110-$177 to average 615c/kg. Rams made to $68.

Light and medium weight lamb prices lift at Dublin

At the South Australian Livestock Exchange on Tuesday, the agents yarded 5000 lambs, 1500 more, and 1200 sheep to a reduced buying group, specialty butchers and restockers.

The NLRS said competition was generally good for the extremely mixed quality selection.

While more young lambs were presented and sold strongly, prices for older medium and heavy weight lambs eased by $20-$25 under indifferent competition.

Extremely light young lambs sold from $56-$98, light weights made $82-$129, up $6, and medium weights sold $15 dearer at $116-$158.

Heavier weights sold mostly from $152-$186. Extremely light older lambs eased $10-$15 to $75-$125, and light weights sold $10 dearer at $130-$158. Medium weight lamb prices lifted $7-$11 to $140-$170, and a few heavy weights made $150-$182.

Light hoggets sold from $60-$120, to be mostly firm, and heavy weights eased $5-$8 to $125-$174. Medium weight ewe mutton was $20 dearer at $130-$157 and heavy weights lifted $5 to $144-$172. Light rams sold from $72-$140, with heavy weights making from $130-$182.

Buyers return to Naracoorte

On Tuesday in SA, the Naracoorte agents yarded 1693 lambs, 1307 fewer, and 607 sheep, 293 less.

The NLRS said the yarding sold to a larger field of trade and processor buyers as the market regained most of the normal buying field was absent last week. Quality was extremely mixed, with large numbers of small clean up lots which before returning buyers created some mixed results in price. Prices for light lambs lifted, the middle weights sold unchanged to slightly dearer and the heavy lamb rates eased.

Light lambs sold to the trade for $66-$126 with the light weight trade 2 and 3 score selection made $121-$149. Trade weight 3 score lambs sold from $144-$158 and heavy lambs made $146-$184. A few extra heavy pens made $172-$195.

Hoggets made $124-$150 and light ewes sold from $85-$105. Medium weight ewes sold from $112-$148 and the heavy pens made $140-$163. Rams ranged from $65-$148.

Forbes lamb prices lift $15-plus

At the Forbes saleyards on Tuesday, the agents yarded 22,350 lambs, 650 more than last week, and 2850 sheep, 100 fewer.

The NLRS said the sheep and lamb numbers remained similar to the previous week despite widespread rain in the drawing area. Quality was fair with good numbers of finished lambs offered.

Heavy and extra heavy weight lambs were well-supplied. Most of the usual buyers competed in the dearer market, particularly on better bred and shaped types.

Prices lifted $15-plus to $175-$194, or 799-840c/kg, for the 5100 fair quality new season lambs, with most fresh and well-finished.

Old trade weight lambs also sold $10-$15 better and more in places at $150-$188. Heavy lambs at 26kg sold from $173-$196, or 760c/kg. Extra heavy weight export lambs sold $7-$10 better at $177-$226, or 660c/kg.

The sheep were mostly Merinos and quality was mixed. Prices lifted, with Merino ewes selling from $143-$200. Crossbreds made $148-$200 and Merino wethers sold from $142-$178.

Trade lamb prices dip $10-$25 at Muchea

In Western Australia on Tuesday, the Muchea agents yarded 5619 lambs, 2619 more, and 3000 sheep, 1372 more.

The NLRS said despite the improved quality yarding, supply outstripped demand, particularly for trade lambs, with prices easing $10-$25. Airfreight lambs remained firm and light Merino ewe lambs sold to restockers gained $20.

Hoggets and boner ewe mutton eased $10, but the better ewe mutton was firm to $6 dearer with the addition of a major processor returning after a maintenance shut down. The market toppers were heavy lambs at $191, ram lambs at $185, hoggets at $171, wethers at $175 and heavy ewes at $180.

In the lamb section, the light 13-17kg airfreight types sold from $77-$135, remaining firm at almost 725c/kg. The 18-20kg lambs sold to processors for $136-$150, down $10, at about 700c/kg.

The trade weight 21-22kg lambs sold from $149-$175, down $10, at 730c/kg. Heavier over 23kg lambs sold from $178-$191, down $25, at around 640c/kg. Ram lambs sold from $132-$185, down $15.

Very light store Merino wether lambs sold firm to graziers at $79-$123. Ewes sold to restockers for $113-$141, up $20. Best heavy hoggets sold to the trade for $135-$171, down $10, at around 570c/kg. The few best heavy wethers sold firm at $160-$175. In the ewe mutton market, medium weight boners to 24kg sold from $80-$133 down $10, the 25-30kg types made $143-$169, firm at 540c/kg. Heavier types sold from $160-$180, up $6 at nearer 495c/kg.

Tasmania’s heavy lambs sell $5-$15 dearer

At Tasmania’s Powranna and Killafaddy saleyards on Tuesday, the agents yarded 860 lambs, 140 fewer, and 450 sheep, 200 less.

The NLRS said apart from a good quality run of heavy and extra heavy lambs most lambs were showing the signs of the cold weather.

The market for heavy and extra heavy lambs was strong, with price rises of $5-$15. Light and trade lambs lacked competition to be $10-$20 cheaper. There was also less restocker interest which caused a price drop for 16-20kg lambs.

Restockers paid from $112-$120 for light lambs, $124-$140 for light trade and from $126-$149 for trade pens. Processors paid from $100-$120 for light lambs, $138-$152 for trade weights, $146-$180 for heavy weights and from $166-$198 for extra heavy pens.

The very small penning of mutton met stronger demand, with a prominent exporter back after a couple of weeks off. Extra heavy ewes made $137-$150, heavy types sold from $140-$150, medium types made $125-$139, light types sold from $106-$118 and very light types made $50-$78.

Carcoar trade lambs $9-$15 dearer

In NSW on Wednesday, the Carcoar agents yarded 6600 lambs, 3500 fewer, and 390 sheep, 470 less.

The NLRS said heavy weight lambs made up most of the yarding, with only limited number of trade weights. There were a couple of pens of well-finished new season lambs and some well-finished Merino lambs.

A full field of buyers operated in the stronger market. Trade lambs were $9-$15 dearer at $150-$186, or 770c/kg. Trade weight new season lambs made $178-$190.

Heavy weight lambs were firm to $5 dearer, with the 24kg-30kg lines making $160-$205. Lambs over 30kg sold from $200-$210, or 650c/kg. The better selection of Merino lambs were also dearer, with the trade weights selling from $130-$167.

Hoggets sold to $168. Most mutton sold at similar rates to the previous sale. Merino ewes sold from $138-$158 and crossbred ewes made $130-$206. Merino wethers sold from $130-$183. Restockers paid to $140 for White Dorper ewes and $161 for Merino ewes.

Horsham lambs lift $10-$20

At the Horsham saleyards in Victoria on Wednesday, the agents yarded 1178 lambs, 576 more, and 1674 sheep, 300 fewer.

The NLRS said lamb quality was mixed, with a few neat pens. Not all the usual buyers attended, but those operating paid to $201 for heavy lambs and to $175 for the better presented medium and heavy trade weight lambs. Sought after types sold dearer in places, to be $10-$20 up.

Restockers paid from $96-$135 for Merino lambs. Light weight 2 score lambs sold $108. Light trade weight lambs, 18-22 kg, at $138-$152, or around 700c/kg.

Medium trade weight 3-4 score 22-24 kg lambs sold from $154-$175, or from 660-730c/kg to average around 710c/kg. Heavy 3-4 score trade weight lambs sold to $170. Export weight lambs made $179-$190 and the extra heavy weight lambs sold from $165-$201. Light trade weight Merino lambs sold from $108-$148 to average close to 700c/kg.

Some good runs of Merino sheep were offered and sold firm to a few dollars easier. Merino wethers sold to $155. Merino ewes sold to $160 and heavy crossbred ewes made to $165.

Light weight 2 score sheep sold from $85-$90 and averaged around 485c/kg. Medium weight 2-3 score sheep sold from $116-$136 and ranged from 480-580c/kg. Merino mutton averaged around 575c/kg.

Heavy Merino ewes sold from $136-$160, heavy Merino wethers made $138-$155 and medium weights sold from $121-$143. Heavy Merino sheep averaged around 575c/kg. Heavy crossbred sheep sold from $126-$165 and rams made to $130.

Hamilton’s trade lamb lambs hold firm

At the Hamilton saleyards on Wednesday, the agents yarded 1546 lambs, 1044 more, and 173 sheep, 82 fewer.

The NLRS said the overall quality was good. Not all the regular processors attended or were active, and there was no restocking competition, resulting in a market that was firm for trade lambs up to 25kg.

Any heavier lambs, 26-30kg and over, sold softer by $10-$15. There were very few light 12-18kg lambs offered. The light trade weight 18-20kg lambs sold from $128-$146, averaging 660-720c/kg. Medium trade weight 22-25kg lambs made from $136-$171 to average 650-700c/kg. The few heavy trade weight lambs, 26-30kg and over, made to $165, or around 530c/kg. The 3 score hoggets made to $122.

Good trade Merino mutton held firm; however, heavy crossbred ewes sold $25-$30 cheaper. Heavy crossbred ewes made to $155 and the better, heavier well-covered Merino ewes sold from $117-$134. Merino wethers, 3 score, made $130-$145, with a general run of Merino mutton making 550-600c/kg. Terminal rams made to $60 and Merinos sold to $90.

Yass lambs lift $15-$20

At the South Eastern Livestock Exchange at Yass on Wednesday, the agents yarded 2400 lambs, 1284 fewer, and 800 sheep, 791 less.

Lamb quality was mixed, but there was a good run of trade and heavy lambs. Most of the new season lambs yarded were trade weights.

Not all the usual buyers operated, but there were a few extra butchers at the market. Price trends varied, but the general trend of the market was dearer, lifting $15-$20 across most lambs. The few new season lambs sold from $184-$198, to average from 830c/kg-plus as the weight decreased.

Old medium and heavy trade lambs sold from $154-$185/head, or 800-900c/kg, with the lighter weights attracting a premium. Heavy old lambs sold from $179-$186, or 700-760c/kg cwt. The extra heavy weights made $180-$209.

Merino lambs made $150-$168 for the trade weights and heavy weights reached $195, or 670-710c/kg.

Medium weight ewes sold firm and the few heavy sheep lifted up to $10. Medium weight ewes sold from $131-$170. Heavy crossbred ewes made $158-$189 and Merino wethers sold to $170.

Katanning prices lift with return of processors

At the Katanning saleyards in WA on Wednesday, the agents yarded 4606 lambs, 2502 more, and 5500 sheep, 4300 more.

The NLRS said the yarding was dominated by ewes, with increased demand for heavier weights that sold to $191 with processing plants back in operation after maintenance closures.

Heavy lambs made to $190, but prices for the lighter weights and store lambs fluctuated on quality offered and demand.

Light weight store lambs under 12kg gained on quality to make $49-$82. Airfreight weights under 16kg made from $70-$120 and from $110-$145 for the heavier end under 18kg.

Light trade weight lambs, including Merinos, sold from $139-$171, and heavier trade weights made $160-$177.

A good yarding of young merino ewes sold to processors for $76-$165. depending on weights. Restockers paid $65 for light weight stores. Heavy ewes sold from $180-$190 and the medium weight ewes eased on some lines to $97-$154. Light weight store ewes eased to $70-$94. A small selection of wethers sold from $140-$160 for the heavy weights and the lighter weights made $130. Heavy young rams sold to processors for $71-$130. Young store rams made $10-$79. A large yarding of ram lambs sold at $140-$150 for the heavy weights and from $41-$125 for lighter weights.

Wagga’s new season lambs lift $16

In NSW at the Wagga Wagga saleyards on Thursday, the agents yarded 30,000 lambs, 8000 more, and 5250 sheep, 1750 fewer.

The NLRS said the number of new season lamb lifted 6000. Quality was excellent over trade and heavy lamb categories, with most lambs being grain-assisted or finished on a crop.

Heavy and extra heavy lambs’ numbers were similar, with plenty of lambs weighing more than 30kg carcase weight. Restocker activity was minimal.

A full field of buyers operated, but despite not all major domestic buyers operating fully, the trade market gained traction, particularly for 21-24kg lambs.

New season lambs, 21-22kg, gained $16 to $170-$184. Prices for old trade were buoyant due to a few more orders. Lambs, 21-24kg, sold from $164-$186, mostly at 750-777c/kg.

Merino trade lambs sold to more buyers and all categories sold to solid competition to average 670-696c/kg. Lambs suitable for restockers and feeders were in short supply and made $129-$165.

Heavy and extra heavy lambs bounced $9-$10, with 26-30kg lambs making $170-$198, or 632c/kg. Lambs over 30kg were keenly sought, selling at $186-$236, or 591c/kg. It was another good quality yarding of mutton with heavy sheep well-supplied. Heavy ewes sold to strong demand, lifting $13-$17 to average 547c/kg. Heavy wethers made 560-594c/kg. Trade sheep were limited and averaged 590c/kg.

Cowra lambs cheaper despite extra competition

At the Cowra saleyards on Friday, the agents yarded 5500 lambs, 3050 more, and 365 sheep, 165 more.

The NLRS said lamb quality was good across all grades, with most being trade and heavy weights, and 1500 new season lambs penned.

All the usual buyers operated, with one extra, but competition was softer, resulting in a cheaper trend after last week’s dearer sale.

Medium and heavy trade weight new season lambs were $4-$10 cheaper at around 720-750c/kg. Most of the heavy trade weights, 22-24kg, sold from $177-$185. Heavy trade old lambs held firm at $168-$178, or around 710c/kg.

Heavy and extra heavy weight lambs were $6-$13 cheaper at 590-650c/kg. The heavy weight lambs sold from $156-$172 and the extra heavy weight made $173-$218.

Mutton quality was mixed. Heavy first cross ewes sold from $130-$170 at 450-495c/kg.

Griffith lambs cheaper despite good quality

At the Griffith saleyards on Friday, the agents yarded 13,000 lambs, 9850 more, and 2300 sheep, 2030 more.

The NLRS said the centre’s new season lamb turn-off started early with 3300 offered, mostly off crops, well-finished and with no light weights.

All the regular domestic and export processors attended, with no restocker or feedlot activity. All domestic processors operated, but there was a lack of buying urgency and new season lambs sold to softer trends, with processors struggling to find lambs at preferred light weights.

Despite the quality, prices were generally softer across the market. Medium and heavy trade weight lambs sold from $167-$185, or 756c/kg. Heavy lambs were better supplied and made $174-$186, easing $8. Export types were plentiful and sold from $180-$196, or 611-649c/kg.

Old heavy trade weight lambs sold from $169-$170, or 723c/kg. Heavy lambs eased $11 to $154-$185 and export types reached $221, easing $10-$11, to average 586c/kg. Merino lambs softened $10-$20, with trade weights making $126-$150 and heavy lambs $139-$160.

Mutton quality continued to be very good. Heavy cross bred ewes sold to a weaker trend to make up to $196 at around 490c/kg. Heavy Merinos ewes sold to $188. Trade sheep sold from $129-$134.


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