RAIN, wool prices and declining supplies helped intensify competition for mutton in NSW mid-week with buyers paying over 450c/kg cwt for medium trade sheep at the Wagga and Cootamundra saleyards.
Quality trade lamb prices generally held firm mid-week, though slipping for plainer quality light and heavy lambs in some saleyards.
The NLRS said there were also upward adjustments to lamb skin rates this week, reportedly attributed to reduced supplies and the stronger wool market.
At Cootamundra on Wednesday, the National Livestock Reporting Service said the rise in skin rates helped lift sheep prices $8-$12, with medium weight ewes making from $77-$120 and heavy weights to $135. Most averaged 420-440c/kg, but prices went up to 496c/kg cwt for 18.1-24kg sheep, with skins being valued at up to $16. Some sheep lines under 18kg made from 242-544c/kg with skin values of up to $8, but some were freshly shorn young wethers that went to restockers.
At Wagga on Thursday, the trade sheep made from $80-$130.20, to average 440c/kg cwt, but processors paid up to 483c/kg for some 18.1-24kg lines, with skin values of $10-$25. Several lines carried full fleeces and heavy wethers made from $120-$142, to average 410c/kg. Heavy ewes ranged from $118-$150.20.
Rain boosts Cootamundra and Wagga markets
Cootamundra stock agent, Steve Tolmie, from Holman and Tolmie, said rain was the main factor in a conservative 10-20c/kg lift in mutton prices this week, with 50mm of rain falling in the days before the sale.
“So our numbers were cut a bit, that certainly would have more to do with it.
“The market for mutton sheep was very strong, compared to the previous sale (two weeks ago).”
The lift in wool prices has lifted prices on sheep and lambs with fleeces, especially unshorn Merino lambs that sold up to $140 with skins valued around $18, he said.
“The lamb market was solid, especially on the light restocking and processing lambs, which made well over 650c/kg cwt.”
He said short lamb skins, over half an inch, had strengthened from $4-$5 to “virtually double” at $11-$12.
A general lack of supply of sheep, exacerbated by retention of older ewes for breeding, was also driving prices, Mr Tolmie said. With lambs fairly solid and quantities in storage, some processors might also be supplementing their kills with mutton. Thomas Foods International confirmed this week that they have been prepared to pay 420c/kg for Merino wethers to build numbers for the return of the company’s Wallangarra plant to operation next week.
At Wagga, Elders auctioneer Joe Wilks said prices were firm to slightly dearer on heavier mutton this week.
“And our yarding halved on the week before, from 40,000 lambs and 12,000 sheep, to 20,000 lambs and 7000 sheep.
“It’s the rain – since when it started about three days we’ve had nearly 70mm and it’s broad, everywhere, that’s why our numbers have been cut down,” he said.
“If you’ve got some wool on them you are in business – the skin value has tripled.
“The numbers were down and they needed them, but you noticed anything with a bit of jacket you got a premium on – I would say it is a combination of both, but mainly the skin value,” Mr Wilks said.
“I think we’ve got a bit more rain coming early next week, so I think a lot of those lighter sheep, restocker lambs and cattle, you won’t see them anymore.”
NLRS indicators firm for trade and heavy lambs
After Thursday’s saleyard sales, the NLRS quoted the Eastern States Daily Indicator for trade lambs as unchanged on 573c/kg and the heavy lamb indice was also firm on 578c/kg. The national trade lamb indicator closed on 574c/kg and the heavy indice is on 578c/kg.
The other lamb ESDIs are: restocker 530c/kg, up 13 cents; Merino 527c/kg, up 2c and light lambs 554c/kg, down 5c.
Despite prices peaking at some NSW sales mid-week, the NLRS ESDI and national indicator for mutton both closed on 387c/kg, down 1 cent.
Carcoar sheep average over 400c/kg
In NSW at Carcoar’s Central Tablelands Livestock Exchange on Wednesday, the agents yarded 8400 lambs, 1200 fewer than last week, and 4200 sheep, 700 more.
The NLRS said lamb quality was generally good across all grades. Mainly trade and heavy lambs were penned, with a limited supply of store lambs. All the buyers operated, with solid competition on the trade weights, but a little softer on the heavy end.
Light lambs averaged $107 and store lines averaged $82. Medium and heavy trade weight lambs were firm to $3 dearer and averaged around 580c/kg cwt. Most of the fresh heavy trade weight lambs sold from $128-$136. Heavy weight lambs were firm, but the extra heavy weights were $6 cheaper, ranging from 527-572c/kg. A couple of pens of extra heavy weight lambs generally sold from $160-$179 and topped at $190, with an estimated carcase weight of 34kg.
Mutton quality was good. Medium Merino ewes were $8 dearer and averaged $94 or 406c/kg cwt. Heavy wethers were $9 dearer and averaged $119 or 433c/kg.
Cootamundra mutton makes 420-440c/kg
At the Cootamundra saleyards on Wednesday, the agents yarded 5205 lambs, 995 fewer than last week, and 3600 sheep, 1100 less.
The NLRS said lamb numbers eased slightly in wet conditions and the quality was plainer with ideal trade weights in short supply. Most lambs were light secondary types. There were a handy run of heavy weights, but as many as previous weeks. Merino lambs were better supplied. Not all the usual buyers operated in a mostly dearer market.
Light Merino lambs lifted $9, selling from $88-$109. The medium and heavy trade lambs, and the lighter weights, held firm. However, prices eased slightly on average for heavy weight lambs with the drop in numbers. Prices ranged from $112-$135 to average 575c/kg cwt. Heavy lambs were firm, ranging from $148-$165, or 610c/kg. Heavy Merino lambs reached $143.60.
Mutton quality was mixed with mostly ewes penned. A rise in skin prices helped lift mutton a further $8-$12. Medium weight ewes sold from $77-$120 and heavy weights to $135. Most averaged 420-440c/kg cwt.
Narromine scanned ewes sell to $116
At the Narromine saleyards on Wednesday, the agents yarded 2400 sheep.
The NLRS said up to 60mm of rain in the area reduced numbers considerably, leaving a mixed yarding of Merino ewes. There was a useful crowd, with buyers attending from Yarrawonga, Forbes and local districts.
The best of the ewes was a line of locally bred 5 and 6-year-olds, April shorn and scanned in lamb to the White Suffolk rams that sold for $116. A line of mixed age ewes from Coonabarabran, also SIL to White Suffolk rams, sold for $113. The older ewes in the same consignment made $78.
Two other lines of Merino ewes SIL to the Border Leicester rams sold for $100 and $107, and a line of 6-year-olds scanned empty sold for $84. A line of small framed one and a half year olds which were in very plain condition sold for $71. Mixed age Border Leicester rams sold to a local processor for $64.
Wagga trade sheep sell up to 483c/kg, average 440c/kg
At the Wagga saleyards on Thursday, the agents yarded 20,000 lambs, 20,000 fewer than last week, and 7000 sheep, 3000 less.
The NLRS said lamb numbers halved after soaking rains across the region and quality was generally mixed. A full field of buyers attended, but not all major export buyers operated fully. There was limited restocking activity, with well-bred second cross lambs selling to dearer trends.
Plainer light weight lambs to the processors sold to weaker demand, easing $4, making from $95-$117. Trade lambs were in short supply, with very few well-finished lines offered. Light trade lambs to slaughter averaged $120.80.
Medium and heavy trade lambs sold to fluctuating price trends, depending on quality and finish. The better finished types made from $145-$164, to average 620c/kg cwt.
Merino lambs were in reasonable numbers and well-finished pens suitable for the trade made from $110-$144. Well-bred second cross lambs returning to the paddock sold from $88-$120. Heavy and extra heavy lambs sold to strong competition, with the bulk of the heavy lambs making $148-$168, lifting $5. Extra heavy lambs were generally unchanged to average 591c/kg.
Mutton quality was mixed, with all weights and grades represented. Merino ewes suitable for the trade were well-supplied and competition was steady. Trade sheep made from $80-$130.20, to average 440c/kg cwt. Heavy sheep were well-supplied with good numbers in full wool. Heavy wethers made from $120-$142, to average 410c/kg. Heavy ewes ranged from $118-$150.20.
Hamilton sheep $3-$5 cheaper
In Victoria at the Hamilton saleyards on Wednesday, the agents yarded 5774 lambs, 778 more than last week, and 2674 sheep, 404 more.
The NLRS said lamb was quality this week. Most of the current buyers were present, but not all operating fully during the market.
Some local restockers were active on lighter weight lambs, with prices for 1 and 2 score lambs easing $2-$5 at times, though mostly unchanged. Medium trade weight lambs also remained unchanged but also had a slightly cheaper trend of $1-$3 at times. Heavier lambs remained firm to be at similar prices.
Light 1 score lambs made $40-$75 and light trade weight 2 scores sold from $69-$115. The medium trade weight 2 and 3 score lambs sold from $110-$139 and were estimated to average 600c/kg cwt. Heavy weight 4 scores sold from $146-$173, ranging from 580-590c/kg.
Sheep were unchanged to $3-$5 cheaper, with more lighter mutton penned. Light 1 score sheep made $37-$54, while medium 2 and 3 score mutton sold from $55-$92, or 330-370c/kg cwt. Heavier 3 and 4 score Merino and crossbred sheep sold from $90-$120, averaging 370c/kg. Medium weight Merino wethers, 2 and 3 score, sold from $73-$86, or around 370c/kg. Hoggets sold from $76-$118, or 395-470c/kg. Rams made $54-$88.
Horsham lambs $2-$5 easier
At the Horsham saleyards on Wednesday, the agents yarded 5044 lambs, 819 more than last week, and 1306 sheep, 542 more.
The NLRS said lamb quality was average, with limited numbers of quality trade weight and heavy lambs and more lighter, plainer types. Not all the usual buyers operated fully, and lambs generally sold from $2-$5 easier, with extra heavy lambs reaching $188. Restockers and feeders paid from $101-$130, and from $50-$65 for lighter lambs.
All weights and grades of sheep were yarded, with most generally selling around last week’s levels. Light weight 1 and 2 score lambs sold from $84-$95. Light trade 2 and 3 score lambs sold from $100-$120, to average around 580c/kg cwt. Trade weight 3 and 4 score lambs sold from $124-$148, or from 540-600c/kg to average around 570c/kg. Heavy 3 and 4 score lambs sold from $148-$172 and the extra heavy export lambs made $178-$188. Merino lambs sold from $95-$117, with some heavier lots making to $123.
Light weight 1 and 2 score sheep sold from $42-$80. Medium weight 2 and 3 score sheep sold from $85-$105, or from 360-420c/kg to average around 380c/kg cwt. Heavy 3 to 5 score sheep sold from $102-$127 and heavy Merino wethers made $110. Rams sold from $12-$85.
Ouyen lambs sell to $203.60
At the Ouyen Livestock Exchange on Thursday, the agents yarded a good quality offering of 8764 lambs and 1125 sheep.
Lambs sold $8-$12 dearer than the last sale and made $203.60.
Crossbred export weight lambs sold from $146-$203.60, or 580-630c/kg cwt, the trade weights made $108-$156, or 590-620c/kg, with the store and light lines ranging from $72-$110, or 600-650c/kg.
Light Merino lambs sold from $40-$116.60, or 500-620c/kg cwt, and the heavy lines made $116-$157.60, or 530-590c/kg.
Mutton prices were firm, with light sheep making $77-$104, or 380-410c/kg, and the heavy selling from $106-$132, or 330-380c/kg.
Warwick market dearer
In Queensland at the Warwick saleyards on Wednesday, the agents yarded 1084 lambs and hoggets, and 418 sheep.
In a smaller yarding of lambs and a similar offering of sheep, the market was dearer for all descriptions.
The top-priced pens of lambs made $155 for TD Cooper of ‘Kilcoo’, Bony Mountain, and were purchased by Schulz Meats.
Crossbred lambs from 46-55kg lwt sold from $130-$155, the 42-45kg lambs made $116-$129, the 36-42kg lines ranged from $110-$126 and the 35-40kg lots made $98-$113.50.
Shorn crossbred hoggets weighing 51kg lwt sold to $99. Trade wethers with a skin value of $10 sold to $136 or 420c/kg cwt and light wethers with a $5 skin made to $60 or 345c/kg. Heavy crossbred ewes with a $15 skin sold to $132 or 415c/kg and light lines with a $6 skin made to $65 or 290c/kg.
Katanning loses competition with shutdown
In WA at the Katanning saleyards on Wednesday, the agents yarded 6787 lambs, 2670 fewer than last week, and 4000 sheep, 7000 less.
The NLRS said it was a very mixed quality yarding of sheep and lambs. Competition was down as one processor was closed for maintenance and no live export buyers were present.
New season lambs sold from $55-$128. Light store lambs sold from $25-$69, to average $45. Air freight lambs sold from $60-$130 and averaged $90. Crossbred lambs weighing 18-22kg cwt made from $95-$130. Merino lambs weighing 18-22kg sold from $106-$115. Merino lambs sold to restockers for $25-$79.
Mutton prices were equal, with ewes in fleece selling to $97. The 2 score processor mutton made $35-$70 and the better 3 score sheep sold from $45-$97 to average $80. Restockers paid $35-$70. Wether prices were easier, with the light weight Merinos selling from $35-$105. Processor wethers made $78-$105, and restockers and feeders paid $30-$106. Rams sold firm to processors from $35 $100 and ram lambs made up to $110.
Sources: MLA, NLRS.