Riverina Livestock Agents auctioneer James Tierney sells Merino wethers for $233.20 at the Wagga Wagga saleyardards on Thursday.
LAMB and sheep prices surged in eastern Australian saleyards this week, with mutton rates reaching record levels nationally.
Recent rainfall across large areas, concern over future supplies of lambs and mutton sheep, and a reported freeing up of kill space with processors have all contributed to increased competition at saleyards.
After the recent release of an 830c/kg Coles contract for 18-26kg cwt crossbred lambs delivered in July, restocker lamb rates also increased dramatically, while domestic processor competition on heavy export weight lambs increased for quality lines.
Recent high prices and renewed buyer interest also lifted lamb offerings at many major saleyards, but numbers dropped significantly at Wagga Wagga yesterday, where Fletchers International Exports paid to $237.20 heavy first cross ewes.
The Eastern States Daily Indicator for restocker lambs increased 68 cents in four days to peak at 766c/kg yesterday, but prices for all lamb categories increased. Following on from significant rises last week, the ESDI increases for the other lamb categories this week up to Thursday were: Merino lambs up 25 cents to 723c/kg; light lambs up 23 cents to 747c/kg; trade lambs up 16 cents to 745c/kg and heavy lambs up 17 cents to 723c/kg.
The national saleyard mutton indicator reached an all-time high of 540c/kg cwt on Tuesday this week, two percent higher than the previous record set in May 2017.
Prices peaked at the Wagga saleyards on Thursday, when Riverina Livestock Agents sold 197 grain-fed Merino wethers to Fletchers International Exports for the Marilba Pastoral Company at Bowning for $233.20. The wethers had a skin valued at about $15-$20 and were estimated at 33-34kg cwt. The RLA agent Trent Driscoll said these were the highest mutton prices he had ever seen.
RLA auctioneer Tim Drum said “genuine 22kg” trade lambs were making the most on a cents-a-kilogram basis in the saleyards and restockers were paying $140-$150 for sub-standard stores.
“The market is nearly as dear as any of the contracts out there.”
Elders Wagga agent Will Stoddart said the $237.20 first cross ewes sold yesterday had a 5cm fleece, possibly valued at $10, and were estimated at 35-37kg cwt.
“They were monstrous big ewes, but we have had big ewes make similar money in previous weeks before the Easter and Anzac Day break.”
Mr Stoddart attributed the current prices to supply and demand, helped by renewed competition from Junee Abattoir bidding against Thomas Foods International and Fletcher for heavy sheep.
He believed recent rain in central west NSW would lead to some producers now holding onto lambs for finishing on crops.
“The better end of your store and feedlot lambs has gone through the roof – with lambs of 28-34kg liveweight making $155-$160 here today.”
Mr Stoddart said it was hard to forecast the impact of rainfall on future saleyard supplies.
“We are still yarding around 30,000 lambs every week and it hasn’t differed from that for a while, so that’s telling me there is still a constant flow of lambs out there.
“But if we do get a general rain it will pull the numbers up and people will hold lambs back to benefit themselves a bit later on.”
Several other runs of heavy ewes and Merino wethers made well over $200 in other major saleyards this week.