Mutton prices took another jump in saleyards early this week as export demand remained strong and rain kept sheep on farms in parts of NSW.
Prices for quality mutton reached 390c/kg-410c/kg cwt at Dubbo, 340c/kg-370c/kg cwt at Bendigo and 350c/kg-380c/kg at Ballarat, with NLRS data indicating some categories were even dearer.
Some saleyard rates are approaching prices paid in 2011 when the Eastern States Mutton Indicator exceeded 400c/kg cwt for the first nine months. After Tuesday’s sales, the national and ES mutton indicators rose nine cents to 344c/kg cwt.
The NLRS said over-the-hook mutton prices continued to lift in NSW his week, with good quality wethers at 350¢/kg cwt. In SA medium and heavy weight mutton topped at 350c/kg cwt and in Victoria OTH sheep rates also improved on pre-Christmas levels, with medium weights reaching 320c/kg cwt.
Heavy lamb prices also on the rise
Heavy lamb prices also rose generally early this week, with the ES indicator up eight cents to 555c/kg cwt and the national indice up nine cents to 556c/kg. The trade weight indicators both dropped to close on 543c/kg cwt. The ES Merino lamb indicator closed on Tuesday at 484c/kg cwt, up eight cents, and the restocker indice was at 564c/kg, up 28 cents.
The NLRS said over-the-hook lamb rates also increased across all categories to start the year strongly, with highs of 550¢/kg cwt for trade weight lambs. Merino lambs made the largest gains, reaching 460-470¢/kg cwt on most grids.
Dubbo saleyard mutton to 410c/kg cwt
In NSW at Dubbo on Monday, the agents yarded 6580 lambs, 2970 fewer than last week, and 3770 sheep, 230 less.
The NLRS said numbers were back on the expect draw due to at least 35mm of rain in most districts. It was a good quality yarding with a good selection of trade and heavy weight lambs, and a better selection of Merinos.
Light weight lambs were $4 dearer, with 12-18kg 2 scores selling from $57-$112. Trade lambs were $2-$5 dearer, with the 18-22kg new season lambs selling from $122-$128. The trade weight old lambs sold from $93-$136 to range from 560c/kg-590c/kg cwt. Heavy weight lambs were $10 dearer than the previous market. The over 22kg old lambs sold from $136-$170. The better selection of Merino lambs were also dearer, with the trade weights selling from $90-$116 and those over 22kg from $125-$134. The restockers paid to $103 for lightweight crossbreds.
Most mutton grades were $5-$8 dearer in the mixed quality yarding and ranged from 390c/kg-410c/kg cwt. The 2 score ewes sold from $45-$88, with solid support coming from a southern restocker. The 3 and 4 score ewes sold from $76-$121 for Merinos and $123 for crossbreds. The few prime conditioned Merino wethers sold from $108-$116.
NSW markets rain-affected
Ray White Rural’s David Armitage at Dubbo said the first two 2015 markets have been weather-affected with decent summer rainfalls holding mutton back from sale.
“It has given producers an opportunity to hold sheep, where previously they were coming onto the market.
“The other thing is that a lot of sheep have left the western areas of NSW because it has been dry for a long time, so now those people are going to need to get more sheep or hold those they have,” he said.
“Those areas usually produce large numbers of sheep, they are not going to do that this year and I think that is leading to the shortage and then the price rises.”
But Mr Armitage said there is little or no store component in the mutton rates at the moment.
“It appears to me that the processors seem to have more money to pay for older ewes than restockers do.
“The processors are in front of the restockers at this stage on cast-for-age sheep certainly.”
Tamworth trade lambs cheaper with quality
At Tamworth on Monday, the agents yarded 3600 lambs, 1425 more than last week, and 2050 sheep, 1050 more.
The NLRS said the quality of the lambs was mixed with a good supply of trade and heavyweights. Not all the regular lamb buyers attended, however a new buyer operated on secondary trade lambs.
The market for trade weight lambs was generally cheaper for young and old lambs. Some of the old lambs sold firm to local butcher orders with the balance up to $12 cheaper. Quality variations were also evident in some price changes. Heavy lambs also sold to a cheaper trend, down $5-$10 with the heavier lambs most affected.
The sheep market was also firm to cheaper market trend. Restockers were active in the market for Dorper ewes and they purchased the highest priced sheep.
Heavy lambs $5-$7 dearer at Forbes
At Forbes on Tuesday, the agents yarded 17,900 lambs, 2600 more than last week, and 4900 sheep, 200 fewer.
The NLRS said lamb quality improved slightly. There were more well-finished lambs and fewer plainer types. Most of the offering was heavy and extra heavy lambs. The usual buyers competed in a dearer market.
Light lambs held firm selling from $90-$104. Trade weights were $3-$4 dearer, with prices ranging from $103-$125. Heavy and extra heavy lambs were $5-$7 dearer. Heavy lambs sold from $125-$155. Extra heavy weight lambs sold from $144-$188. Carcase prices ranged from 532c/kg-588c/kg cwt.
The mutton was mostly mixed quality Merinos. Prices lifted $6 and Merino ewes sold from $76-$114.
Crossbred ewes ranged from $74-$116. Dorper ewes sold from $83-$108. Merino wethers ranged from $88-$118.
Bendigo mutton to 370c/kg cwt
In Victoria at Bendigo on Monday, the agents yarded 16,048 lambs and 7917 sheep.
The NLRS said lamb and sheep numbers fell short of the anticipated draw following weekend rain. The lambs were mixed in quality, although there was a good selection of lucerne and grain-assisted slaughter lambs at the top end of the market. The regular buyers operated in a slightly dearer market for quality export and domestic lambs, with a pen of extra heavy shorn lambs selling to $176.
Competition for mutton was very strong despite one major export processor not competing and a stand-out pen of extra heavy Merino wethers in full wool topped at $140.60.
Restocker competition for light lambs remained buoyant at $70-$92 for better grown types, while very small and plain young lambs generally sold above $60. Restocking orders were from Boort, Rochester, Echuca, Wodonga and the local Bendigo area. Light lambs to processors mostly made from $75-$96.
The top pens of heavy domestic lambs, most recently shorn with shorter length skins, sold from $130-$144 to average around 550c/kg cwt. The lighter trade weight lambs mostly sold from $110-$126. Pens of heavy lambs weighing above 26kg cwt sold upwards of $146, with about a dozen pens of extra heavy export lambs, 28-32kg cwt, commanding $160-$176.
Processor competition for mutton was very strong after sheep numbers fell below 8000 head. Heavy slaughter sheep regularly made over $100 a head, topping at $140.60 for a stand-out pen of Merino wethers in full wool and $122 for crossbred ewes. Medium weight ewes mostly sold from $78-$95, with plain conditioned and light sheep from $45-$60. On a carcase basis most mutton sold in a range of 340c/kg-370c/kg cwt, with odd sales higher.
Ballarat mutton 350c/kg-380c/kg cwt
At Ballarat on Tuesday, the agents yarded 31,100 lambs, 2190 fewer than last week, and 14,500 sheep, 2658 more.
The NLRS said quality remained very good across all lamb categories. Trade weight lambs and heavy lambs were well-supplied, with a better quality and heavier run at the top end of the weight range.
Lighter store lambs were also in reasonable numbers and sold to strong demand. All the usual buyers operated and most of the market sold to a dearer trend.
Restocker lambs lifted $5-$10 and sold from $50-$107. New season trade weights lost some of the sting from buyers and eased $1-$4 on average. Medium and heavy trade weights ranged from $100-$130. Heavy new season lambs sold from $130-$142 and extra heavy weights sold firm, reaching $152. Medium and heavy trade weight shorn lambs sold solidly, ranging from $110-$135 to average 525c/kg-540c/kg cwt. Heavy shorn lambs gained $6, making from $122-$149. Extra heavy lambs were unchanged, mostly selling from $153-$172.
Mutton quality was good. Plenty of well-covered heavy weights were penned alongside a good run of medium weights that were mainly ewes. Prices were $5-$10 dearer on most lines. Medium weights sold from $68-$104 for the 3 scores and the heavy weight wethers reached $127. Most of the better mutton averaged 350c/kg-380c/kg.
Charles Stewart and Co agent at Ballarat Mick Madden said sheep turn-off has yet to be affected by rain.
“They’ve probably had a big clean out (of sheep) so suddenly the whole thing turns around now.
“So instead of enough sheep to go around, there will be no sheep to go around and international markets are pretty strong,” he said.
“I can’t see any reason why it would come back at all.”
Naracoorte mutton to 375c/kg
In SA at Naracoorte on Tuesday, the agents yarded 3583 lambs, 2131 fewer than last week, and 2970 sheep, 780 more.
The NLRS said the lamb market was slightly cheaper, however the sheep sold to dearer rates. The normal trade and processor support was present along with a small restocker presence. Unknown seed status again proved to be a factor in some pens’ easier sales.
Light weight lambs ranged from $47-$92 to the trade, while the restockers purchased in this weight range and paid from $40-$96. Light weight trade 2 and 3 score lambs made $90-$98, with trade weight 3 score lambs ranging from $98-$122, a fall of $4, to average 520c/kg cwt. Heavy 4 score types ranged from $120-$136 to average 490c/kg cwt, $3 easier. The few pens of heavy export 4 and 5 scores made $140-$165 to be $3 easier.
The sheep yarding included all types and weight ranges, and prices were on average $8-$10 dearer. Light weight 1 and 2 score types ranged from $48-$68, with medium weight 2 and 3 scores returning from $75-$99 to average 375c/kg cwt. Heavy 4 and 5 scores ranged from $93-$115. Good quality light wethers sold to $97, while the heavier lines ranged from $115-$120 to be $25 dearer. Rams returned vendors mainly from $35-$57.
Prime heavy lambs lift $19 at Dublin
At the SA Livestock Exchange at Dublin on Tuesday, the agents yarded 7799 lambs, 1642 more than last week, and 3051 sheep, 414 fewer.
The very mixed quality yarding of crossbred and Merino lambs sold to stronger competition from local and interstate trade and processor buyers. Feeder buyers were active and several large consignments of very light weight crossbreds sold to animated bidding from Yorke Peninsula, West Coast and Riverland buyers.
Very light weight crossbreds to feeders sold from $44-$89, while light weights to feeders sold from $76-$92 and a few 3 score light weights made $94-$104. Light weight 3 score crossbreds to trade buyers lifted marginally, selling from $99-$110 to average 522c/kg cwt. Light trade weight 4 scores lifted $6, selling from $120-$130 and averaging 572c/kg cwt. Heavy trade weight 4 scores lifted $3, selling from $125-$142 and averaging 553c/kg cwt. The heavy weight 4 score lambs attracted very strong bidding to lift by as much as $19 and sell from $136-$175, with an average return of 546c/kg-584c/kg cwt.
Light weight Merino lambs sold from $96-$102, averaging 464c/kg cwt, and trade weight 3 scores to processors lifted $6, selling from $100-$120 and averaging 459c/kg cwt.
The mixed quality sheep sold to very erratic competition from trade and processor buyers, with the sale trend generally cheaper. Light weight 2 score ewes to processors sold on a par with last week, from $50-$88, averaging 295c/kg cwt. The heavy weight 3 score ewes were hardest hit by the erratic prices, selling from $77-$102 and averaging 313c/kg cwt. Heavy weight wethers were in demand and they lifted $6, selling from $92-$120 to average 341c/kg cwt. Heavy weight ram prices slipped $5-$26 to $64-$100.
Water and weather increase Muchea yarding
In WA on Tuesday at the Muchea saleyards, the agents yarded 8560 lambs, 1574 more than last week, and 7315 sheep, 620 more.
The NLRS said drying conditions and water shortages increased the yarding this week. Quality was mixed with some good trade lamb drafts and a reasonable supply of heavy mutton. Secondary and store drafts dominated, with large supplies of light lambs and solid supplies of light weight and conditioned ewes. Competition was variable with some buyers inactive at various times. Prices eased across most categories with only store lambs to feed holding firm.
Light store lambs to restockers made $30-$65, mostly $4 easier, including for Merino drafts. Light lamb to air freight processors eased $4, making $60-$90, while those to feeders sold firm, from $62-$90. Trade lambs made $83-$113 or close to 480c/kg cwt, around $4 easier. Heavy lambs sold from $104-$123 and were close to firm.
Ewe prices began the sale at easier prices but firmed as the sale progressed. Light ewes made $30-$60, with restockers active at the slightly easier prices. The 2 score mutton sold from $50-$81, back $2-$4, for a 290c/kg cwt average.
Better 3 and 4 score ewes, including heavy weight drafts, made $57-$88.50, back close to $6 and averaging near to 275c/kg cwt. Restockers paid up to $99 for long-wooled heavy ewes, with most restocker sales from $45-$75, including for young ewe hoggets.
Wether prices were easier with limited live export activity. Store wethers made $45-$75, back $3, with heavier drafts going mostly to processors for $70-$90 and close to firm. Ram sales remained similar, with ram lambs to $86.50, young rams to export or feed at $25-$78 and old rams to processors from $20-$45.
Sources: MLA, NLRS, AuctionsPlus.