SALEYARD lamb prices started to retreat from record levels this week, as more lambs were offered and buyers showed resistance to current rates.
However, as major New South Wales saleyard sales on Monday and Tuesday took a cheaper trend, processors increased over-the-hook rates to encourage more direct consignments.
On Monday, Meat & Livestock Australia said national over-the-hook lamb indicators this week reached new highs.
“Prior to this week, the national heavy trade lamb (20-22kg cwt) and heavy lamb (22-24kg cwt) indicators had very briefly and marginally breached the 600c/kg cwt mark for the first and only time in August 2016.
“This week, however, the national medium trade lamb (18-20 kg cwt), heavy trade lamb and heavy lamb indicators averaged 615c/kg, 615c/kg and 617c/kg cwt, respectively, as processors reportedly look to secure stock,” MLA said.
The eastern states lamb kill last week was down 10pc year-on-year, to 334,346 head, highlighting the supply shortage. MLA is forecasting lamb availability to remain tight during 2017, on the back of slightly poorer lamb markings and fewer ewes joined, which will likely continue to provide support for the market.
On Monday, the National Livestock Reporting Service’s main saleyard Eastern States Daily Indicators for slaughter lambs started to slip back slightly and on Tuesday, fell further, though they remained 101-142c/kg above rates this time last year.
After Tuesday’s sales, the ESDI for lamb are: restocker 737c/kg, up 7 cents, 179 cents higher year-on-year; Merino 597c/kg, up 1c, 107c higher; light 628c/kg, down 3c, 101c higher; trade 658c/kg, down 2c, 133c higher; heavy 663c/kg, down 7c, 142c higher. The ESDI for mutton is down 8 cents to 424c/kg.
At the Dubbo saleyards on Monday, with agents yarding 23,120 lambs, 8290 more than last week, the NLRS said light lambs sold $7 cheaper to processors, with the 12-18kg 2 scores selling from $73-$116. Trade lambs were $8-$9 cheaper, with 18-22kg 3 scores making $113-$158/head, or 630-645c/kg cwt. Heavy weight lambs were quoted as $10-$12 cheaper, with over 22kg 4 scores selling from $146-$212.
Less weight in Dubbo lambs
Christie and Hood agent Tim Wiggins said the Dubbo lamb job was pretty good on Monday, although many lambs were lighter.
“There were still lambs making over $200 and there a lot of lambs over $180-$190, but we didn’t have the weight that we had last week.”
Mr Wiggins said abattoir closure or shorter weeks had not affected the market yet.
“It is drying off a lot, but there just aren’t that many lambs out there.
“I think if there were more lambs there, they would certainly be pushed onto the market.”
Mr Wiggins said with cheap grain and hay so available, producers would change their management and feed lambs more.
“I think we haven’t had the dip yet; I think we will see a dip as we go into March and April as more lambs come onto the market, and then it will improve again as we get into June and come into the winter.”
At the Forbes saleyard on Tuesday, the agents yarded 37,850 lambs, 12,350 more than last week. The NLRS said light lambs eased $3 to $107-$120, trade weights were $4-$6 cheaper at $120-$158 and the bigger heavy and extra heavy weight lamb yarding slipped $5-$8. Heavy lambs sold from $150-$168 and extra heavies made $157-$213.
Lamb market has over-heated
Forbes stock agent Kevin Miller from Miller, Whitty, Lennon and Co said the market had over-heated, and the recent dip in saleyard rates was not due to the shorter weeks or closures of some abattoirs.
“Any competition that you take away is always going to make a difference, there is no doubt about that, but I think it is drying out and there are a few more lambs getting around.
“It has started to get a little bit of resistance in it, but I don’t think this dip in the market is a long term thing, probably a month, and it will still get and remain very strong in the winter,” he said.
“The weather has got hotter and has pushed a few more lambs in.”
Bendigo bucks eastern states saleyard trend
At the Bendigo saleyards on the NLRS said most buyers bought fewer lambs due to the strong prices, although heavy lambs sold to a seasonal price high of $248, for a pen of shorn lambs estimated to weigh 36kg cwt. Agents yarded 13,847 lambs, 3801 more than last week, and 2499 sheep, 1353 fewer.
The NLRS said there were some stand-out pens of very heavy export lambs, but trade lamb quality remained mixed and the seasonal shortage of very good domestic kill lambs continued. Most trade lambs sold firm to $4-$6 dearer and the best export pens were up to $15 better. About 10 pens sold above $200 and the heaviest lambs recorded estimated averages of around 650-670c/kg. The NLRS said the strongest competition was for trade weight lambs, with good 22-26kg crossbreds making $154-$184. The better finished trade weight lambs were estimated at 670-710c/kg, with bidding spiking to around 740c/kg.
Ballarat lambs firm to $5 easier
Ballarat agents also yarded more lambs on Tuesday, with the yarding up 3915 to 25,054, while sheep fell 3434 to 5274.
The NLRS said the usual buyers operated, but lamb prices opened close to firm, then eased to be from firm to $5 down on the high levels of previous weeks. Extra heavy lambs sold from $211-$236 and heavy 3 and 4 score lines made $170-$209.
Light weight 2 score lambs sold from $112-$121. Light trade 2 and 3 score lambs made $118-$145, averaging around 680c/kg. Trade weight 3 and 4 score lambs sold from $143-$164 and heavier drafts made $152-$176.50, or 630-720c/kg, averaging around 680c/kg.
Erratic South Australian lamb pricing
At the South Australian Livestock Exchange on Tuesday, agents yarded 10,000 lambs, 1000 fewer, to the usual trade and export processor buyers and more restockers. Sheep numbers lifted 1000 to 3000.
The NLRS said outstanding heavy exports lambs sold to $228 in the very mixed quality yarding, and trade lamb prices fluctuated up to $10 either side of firm. However on quality and type these also sold on average to a firm trend.
Light young lambs sold from $72-$102, medium weights made $114-$135 and the heavy weights $134-$160. Light old lambs made $69-$104, medium weights sold for $86-$130 and trade weight lambs sold from $110-$174. Heavy lambs made $162-$228.