Mutton prices surged early this week as demand strengthened for quality sheep of most weights in the much lower national offering.
Prices lifted by up to $20 for top quality heavy mutton drafts at Dubbo, Bendigo and Ballarat, and some lighter sheep lines – 14-15kg cwt bare shorn Merino ewes at $65-$70 with a sub-$1 skin — were estimated to come out at better than 420c/kg cwt.
Trade lamb prices also rebounded, especially at Ballarat, where lighter trade weight lambs reportedly sold for more than 600c/kg and heavy lines made to $198.
Processors have fewer sheep on hand
Agents reported that processors had fewer sheep and lambs around them, and rain in NSW could be expected to limit saleyard supplies and further firm heavy sheep rates if NSW processors come south.
Ray White Rural Dubbo director David Armitage said 60-70 mm of rain recently was expected to change the market.
“It was a very solid good quality market, it was also wet weather market, with prices much higher than we normally expect.”
There was no doubt that processors were running out of grown sheep “and not expecting them to be there”.
“It is only a matter of time that lamb numbers would start to show a shortage as well, particularly in my area.”
He said the sheep prices he saw this week looked to be extreme, but he expected there could be more movement in lamb prices.
Landmark Bendigo auctioneer Richard Leitch believed processors were “running out of lambs and sheep.”
“You here reports that there are a lot of lambs out there, but I don’t know where they are.
“They are definitely running out of sheep.”
NLRS indicators regain lost ground
After Tuesday’s saleyard sales, the National Livestock Reporting Service quoted significant improvements in all Eastern States Daily Indicators for lamb and mutton categories. The ESDI lamb levels are: restocker 539c/kg, up 12 cents; Merino 495c/kg, up 6c; light 517c/kg, up 16c; trade 532c/kg, up 9c; heavy 534c/kg, up 6c. The national trade lamb indicator is up 9 cents to 533c/kg and the heavy indice is on 535c/kg, up 6 cents.
The ESDI for mutton closed at 387c/kg, up 13 cents, and the national indice finished at 388c/kg, up 14 cents.
OTH lamb rates higher in NSW and SA
In NSW, the NLRS said over-the-hook 18-24kg cwt lamb rates were marginally higher week-on-week, however all other rates remained unchanged. Mutton rates across all categories edged slightly higher.
NSW’s OTH rates for 2-4 score lambs are: 18-20kg, 500-560c/kg, up 4 cents; 20-22kg, 520-560c/kg, up 4c; 22-24kg, 500-560c/kg, up4c; 24-26kg, 500-540c/kg, no change; Merinos 16-22kg, 440-520c/kg, nc. The 2-4 score sheep rates are: 14-18kg, 240-330c/kg, up 5c; 18-24kg, 270-350c/kg, up 3c; 24kg+, 310-350c/kg, up 3c.
In Victoria, the NLRS said light and trade weight over-the-hook lamb rates declined 5c/kg cwt on average this week, while all other categories remained unchanged. Mutton rates were firm week-on-week.
Victoria’s OTH rates for 2-4 score lambs are: 16-18kg, 530-540c/kg, down 5c; 18-22kg, 530-560c/kg, don 5c; 22-24kg, 540-560c/kg, nc; 24-26kg, 520-540c/kg, nc; 26kg+, 520c/kg, nc; Merinos 16-22kg, 500c/kg, nc. The 2-4 score mutton rates are: 14-18kg, 290-330c/kg, nc; 18-24kg, 320-340c/kg, nc; 24kg+, 310-320c/kg, nc.
In SA, the NLRS said over-the-hook lamb rates edged higher this week, with trade weight carcases averaging 547c/kg cwt. Mutton rates were 8c/kg cwt higher across all categories.
SA’s OTH rates for 2-4 score lambs are: 16-18kg, 540c/kg, up 10c; 18-24kg, 540-560c/kg, up 7c; 24-27kg, 520-540c/kg, up 7c; Merinos 16-22kg, 520c/kg, up 10c. The 2-4 score sheep rates are: 14-18kg, 260-320c/kg, up 8c; 18-24kg+. 320-360c/kg.
In Tasmania, the NLRS quoted OTH lamb and mutton rates as unchanged to last week. Tasmania’s OTH rates for 2-4 score lambs are: 0-16kg, 460-480c/kg; 16-18kg, 480-500c/kg; 18-22kg, 510-540c/kg; 22-26kg, 520-5540c/kg. The 2-4 score mutton rates are: 0-14kg, 280-320c/kg; 14-18kg, 290-330c/kg; 18-24kg, 310-330c/kg; 24kg+, 300-330c/kg.
Western Australia’s OTH rates were not available when this story was published.
Dubbo’s heavy sheep up to $20 dearer
In NSW at Dubbo on Monday, the agents yarded 18,120 lambs, 4250 fewer than last week, and 5560 sheep, 5080 less.
The NLRS said the mixed yarding had some outstanding heavy weight lambs and a good number of lightweights. Ideal trade weights were in limited supply.
Lightweight lambs were $8 dearer, with the 12-18kg cwt 2 scores selling from $75-$95. Trade lambs sold firm to $3 cheaper than last week’s solid market. The 18-22kg 3 scores sold from $91-$128 to average 521c/kg cwt. Trade weight Merino lambs were $7 dearer, from $88-$111.
Heavy weight lambs were firm to $3 dearer with 22-26kg 4 scores selling from $109-$156. The extra heavy weights over 26kg sold from $157-$187 to average 548c/kg cwt. Restockers paid from $75-$108 and hoggets sold to $119.
Mutton quality was mixed with a good mix of most grades. Lightweight ewes were $3-$6 dearer and the heavier weight sheep were up to $20 dearer. The 2 score ewes sold from $45-$92, while the better 3 and 4 scores Merinos sold from $84-$146 and crossbred made to $135. The 3 and 4 score Merino wethers sold from $86-$132.
Tamworth’s heavy lambs up to $10 dearer
At the Tamworth saleyards on Monday, the agents yarded 2500 lambs, 950 more than last week, and 1350 sheep, 2150 fewer.
The NLRS said numbers reduced following rain on the weekend. There was a good supply of trade and heavyweight lambs, and a fair number of lambs suitable to restockers. The regular buyers attended and there was extra competition for trade lambs. Market trends were generally dearer, with restocker confidence boosted by rain.
Good quality store lambs were $1-$4 dearer. Well-finished medium weight trade lambs were up to $5 dearer. Heavy lambs over 24kg were up to $10 dearer. Export weight lambs were in limited supply and remained firm.
There were some very good longer wool Merino sheep penned in the mixed quality offering. Market trends were dearer throughout, with limited numbers a contributing factor. Ewes were $2-$9 dearer with medium and heavy wethers $10-$12 dearer. Skin values contributed to the price improvement.
Forbes’ heavy lambs up $6-10
At the Forbes saleyards on Tuesday, the agents yarded 11,600 lambs, 17,150 fewer than last week, and 3300 sheep, 6400 less.
The NLRS said lamb quality was similar to previous sales, with some good runs of well-finished lambs and plainer types. Heavy and extra heavy lambs were well supplied. The usual buyers competed in a dearer market.
Light lambs sold from $91-$98. Trade weight lambs were $7 dearer, and more in places, from $108-$136. Merino lambs sold from $87-$136. Heavy and extra heavy weight lambs lifted $6-$10. Heavy lambs sold from $129-$141 and extra heavy weights received from $142-$208. Carcase prices ranged from 540-577c/kg.
Mutton quality was very mixed, with good lines of heavy weight sheep and plainer light lines. Prices jumped, with Merino ewes selling from $85-$129. Crossbred ewes sold from $78-$137.
Lamb buyers selective at Bendigo
In Victoria at the Bendigo saleyards on Monday, the agents yarded 9583 lambs, 10,529 fewer than last week, and 5052 sheep, 2974 less.
The NLRS said lamb numbers more than halved following weekend rain and the previous week’s cheaper rates. Prices trended dearer, although buyers were still selective with their bidding on some of the plainer style lambs and not all processors operated at their usual capacity.
Extra heavy export lambs topped the sale at $176.60, not much improved on rates last week. Light weight slaughter and store lambs mostly sold from $80-$96 and were noticeably dearer in places. The general run of domestic lambs, 20-22kg cwt, sold from $102-$118, with the best shaped and presented pens up to $126 on odd occasions. The quality of Merino lambs improved and the best pens of domestic weight grain-supplemented lines ranged from $106-$119. The lead pens of heavy domestic lambs, suiting supermarket orders, sold from $125-$143, at around 525-540c/kg cwt, to be $5-$7 dearer than last week. Bidding for export lambs did vary from firm to $6 dearer depending on weight and quality, with most making $150-$167. Only a few pens of extra heavy lots sold over $170 and up to the market top of $176.60. On a carcase basis a run of heavy lambs was estimated to cost processors 530c/kg.
For the second consecutive week mutton was the highlight of the market, with most sheep sales another $8-$18 dearer. A run of extra heavy crossbred ewes sold from $102-$138 and averaged over $120. Heavy Merino sheep sold from $108-$125. Quality mutton sheep ranged from 360-400c/kg cwt.
Lambs over 600c/kg and sheep lift $20 at Ballarat
In the Ballarat saleyards on Tuesday, the agents yarded 22,511 lambs, 7303 fewer than last week, and 9600 sheep, 2893 more.
The NLRS said there was no drop off in quality, with many pens of well-finished trade weight and heavy lambs yarded for the usual buyers.
The market reached a top of $198, with many lots selling over $170. Most lambs generally sold to a dearer trend to be up $5-$10 on last week, with lighter trade weight lambs selling for over 600c/kg cwt in places. Restockers and feeders were active and paid mostly from $88-$118, and from $50-$80 for lighter drafts. Light weight 1 and 2 score lambs sold from $78-$96.
Light trade 2 and 3 score lambs sold from $88-$116. Trade weight 3 and 4 score lambs sold from $114-$127, with the heavier lots making $127-$146, or 510-590c/kg cwt to average around 555c/kg.
Heavy 3 and 4 score lambs sold from $134-$170 at around 540c/kg cwt. Extra heavy export lambs sold from $168-$198.
All weights and grades were represented in the sheep. Competition was very strong, with most sheep selling to a dearer trend, up $5-$10 on last week, with the wether portion gaining up to $20 in places. Merino wethers in near full wool sold to $141.50. Light weight 1 and 2 score sheep sold from $56-$95 and very light 1 scores made $22-$71. Medium weight 2 and 3 score sheep sold from $69-$119, with the Merino portion averaging around 430c/kg cwt and the crossbreds averaging about 370c/kg. Heavy 3 to 5 score sheep sold from $80-$129. Heavy Merino wethers sold from $102-$141.50 and the medium weights made $78-$115 or around 420-430c/kg cwt.
Heavy lambs lift $12-$14 at Dublin
At the SA Livestock Exchange at Dublin on Tuesday, the agents yarded 9938 lambs, 3765 fewer than last week, and 1783 sheep, 198 less.
The NLRS said the very mixed quality yarding of crossbred and Merino lambs sold to stronger competition from the usual trade and processor buyers. Restockers were cautiously active on light weight Merino lambs and feeders bid occasionally on medium weight crossbreds.
Feeder buyers paid from $94-$104 for crossbred lambs, while light weight 3 score crossbreds to trade buyers lifted $5, selling from $95-$112 and averaging 504c/kg cwt. Light trade weight 4 scores were firm, selling from $110-$122 to average 526c/kg. Heavy trade weight 4 scores lifted $9, selling from $120-$144 and averaging 533c/kg. Heavy weights lifted $12-$14, making from $140-$179, or 539-560c/kg. The extra heavy weights sold from $170-$182.
Light weight Merino lambs sold to restockers from $36-$54, while trade weight 3 score Merinos lifted $9 to $98-$115 or an average of 455c/kg cwt. Heavy weights lifted $5 to sell from $110-$133 or 420-508c/kg.
Prices lifted for the mixed quality sheep yarding. Restockers purchased ewes for $86-$90, while light weight 2 score ewes to trade buyers lifted $8 and sold from $60-$80, averaging 296c/kg cwt. Heavy weight 3 score ewes lifted $11, selling from $90-$108 and averaging 332c/kg. Heavy weight wethers lifted $14 to $98-$125 to average 341c/kg. Heavy weight rams sold from $80-$107.
Naracoorte’s trade and heavy lambs up $10
At the Naracoorte saleyards on Tuesday, the agent yarded 3201 lambs, 716 more than last week, and 1786 sheep, 721 more.
The NLRS said the usual buyers bid on a better quality yarding. The market was dearer across all categories.
Light weight lambs to the trade sold from $87-$94, with light weight trade 2 and 3 score lambs ranging from $90-$106 to be $2 dearer. There were some large runs of store conditioned lambs that that sold at firm rates to eager restockers, who paid from $53-$99. The better quality trade weight 3 score lambs lifted $10 to $102-$131 at an average of 530c/kg cwt. Heavy 4 score lambs also improved by up to $10, to $125-$169.
A much larger run of mostly Merino sheep met strong competition as buyers chased supply. The light weight 1 and 2 score ewes ranged from mainly $55-$75, up $5. Medium weight 2 and 3 score ewes returned vendors from $70-$104, or an average of 380c/kg cwt, lifting $8-$10. Heavy 4 and 5 score ewes ranged from $94-$122. Merino wethers sold to $126 and rams made to $80.
Muchea mutton lifts $3-$5
In WA at the Muchea saleyards on Tuesday, the agents yarded 7170 lambs, 572 more than last week, and 4718 sheep, 2382 fewer.
The NLRS said numbers continue to decrease with cropping activities now underway across most areas. Lamb quality lifted significantly, with good numbers of well-finished prime trade and heavy lambs, and some secondary and store lambs. All buyers were active, resulting in good prices across the categories.
Prime lambs were marginally dearer on quality. Restockers paid from $20-$65 for light lambs, while better framed drafts sold firm to $5 dearer to air freight processors and feeders at $60-$99. Trade lambs sold from $90-$121 and were close to firm at 510c/kg cwt. Heavy prime drafts sold from $121-$139 to be firm to $5 dearer and average close to $520c/kg.
Mutton prices lifted again due to numbers and quality. There were good numbers of heavy mutton and drafts of lighter conditioned ewes. Wether numbers were moderate. Ewe demand was strong, with processors paying mostly $3-$5 more.
Light ewes made from $37-$62.50 and 2 score mutton to processors sold from $57-$90, up $5 at close to 340c/kg cwt. Better conditioned ewes, including the heavy weight drafts, made from $76-$101.50 and were $3 dearer, at around 330c/kg.
Wether prices remained strong, with competition from live exporters, processors and feeders firming the market. Heavy export weight wethers made $90-$114 and the better medium weight drafts from $80-$104. Store wethers sold from $60-$90 to be marginally dearer. Ram prices were strong, with very good ram lambs selling from $90-$125 and better young rams making $65-$85. Old rams sold to processors for $30-$74.
Sources: MLA, NLRS, AuctionsPlus.