Domestic Lamb

Processor lambs hit 1200c/kg and up to $336 a head + VIDEO

Terry Sim, May 29, 2019

Willson Livestock agent Garry Willson, left, with CIAA auctioneer Peter Pinkerton and the $336 lambs at the South Australian Livestock Exchange yesterday.

TRADE, light and heavy lamb prices this week soared to extreme levels – at times above 1200c/kg –as competition for supplies intensified between domestic and export processors.

New record prices for extra heavy lambs were set in South Australia and Victoria, although not all major exporters were active in all markets.

Nevertheless, the strength of supermarket demand, at times against exporters, led to the Eastern States Trade Lamb Indicator approaching its highest ever level weeks earlier than last year.

Agency veterans watched as trade lamb prices reached unseen levels at the Bendigo and Dubbo saleyards on Monday, possibly helped by a cold weather front delaying lambs from Tasmania bound for Victorian processors.

In New South Wales at the Dubbo saleyards on Monday, the National Livestock Reporting Service said processors paid over 1000c/kg for several trade and heavy weight lines, but also for isolated 16-18kg cwt lots. This was also true at the Bendigo saleyards for lambs over 20kg cwt.

Ellis Nuttal and Co director Kevin Stratton said some light lambs made up to 1100c/kg at Bendigo on Monday.

“Most of the good trade supermarket lambs were all tracking around 900-950c/kg.

“They all seemed very, very desperate to buy lambs here,” he said.

“It’s the best market I’ve ever seen and I’ve been in it for quite a lot of years.

“As dear as it is, there are not a lot of lambs to come – most of our clients are well through their lambs and not too many left in the paddocks because of the dry time we had and the heavy selling in the spring,” he said.

He expected processors to start cutting kill schedules and normally prices would level out.

“Lamb numbers are short, but it is very difficult to believe that it can stay at this rate for a long period of time.”

Elders Bendigo livestock consultant Graham ‘Dusty’ Miller said in his 45 years in the business he had never seen prices at these levels. He said the dry conditions and stock sell-off over the past 12 months have created the current shortage and quality, apart from feedlot lambs, is lacking. Demand is being driven by a lack of good heavy lambs for export and trade lambs for domestic consumption, he said.

“There are records being broken on a day-to-day basis, it’s astounding really.

The repercussions of the season and lack of breeding ewes would mean a later new seasons lamb turn-off, probably in late September-early October.

“Therefore there will be a price height right through until that period of time.

“Provided the economy in which we all work can stand up to it,” he said.

“I hope I’m not right, but I foresee abattoir closures and slowing down for maintenance for the winter.”

He said he also never seen the mutton market as dear, with sheep making very close to 800c/kg and lambs bordering on 1100c/kg.

“Until I heard the goat price (1000c/kg-plus) last week, I had never heard of anything like that.”

Ballarat lambs hit $320 – three times

At Ballarat’s Central Victorian Livestock Exchange, there were fewer lambs sold for 1000c/kg-plus, but TB White and Sons sold three lines of heavyweight lambs for a new state record price of $320 and trade weight averages were still above 900c/kg.

TB White livestock manager Xavier Bourke said the $320 lamb sellers included KP Maher and Sons from Springbank with a line of 87 that sold to JBS Australia, Bordertown. Their estimated carcase weight was 40kg with a skin value of $8. Andy Maher from Dean sold 137 lambs of similar weight and skin value for $320 to the Australian Lamb Company. Dean operation Guthrie Farms sold 95 lambs at the record price to JBS Australia Bordertown.

“I thought the extra heavyweights were $20 dearer and our trade lambs were very similar to last week.”

Mr Bourke expected Ballarat to “hot the wall” in numbers in a few weeks and come back to around 14,000-15,000 lambs.

Dublin’s light lambs make 1200c/kg, heavies to $336

In New South Wales at the Forbes saleyards yesterday, processors paid over 1000c/kg for 24kg-plus lines and up to $320 for extra heavyweights.

South Australia producers also enjoyed extreme prices for light and trade lambs, with the NLRS estimating a processor paid up to 1244c/kg for 12.1-16kg cwt lambs at Dublin’s South Australian Livestock Exchange. Prices above 100c/kg were paid for all categories and especially the best 18.1-30kg lambs.

The SA Livestock Exchange also set a new state record for extra heavyweights of $336, well up on the previous highest price of $300 at Dublin last week. The national extra heavy lamb price record of $344 was set by Dubbo agents on 3 September last year.

Thomas Foods International paid the record SA price for Neil and Jackie Harrop’s 53 December shorn White Suffolk cross lambs, marketed by Willson Livestock agent Garry Willson with auctioneer for the Ruralco subsidiary Combined Independent Agents Association Peter Pinkerton. The lambs were weighed at 72kg liveweight and had an estimated carcase weight of 32-33kg, which with a skin value of $7 brought them out at about 1000c/kg.

“They were his (Neil Harrop’s) seconds, the tops are coming to the market next week.

“It will be interesting to see what they make because they are 10kg heavier.”

Mr Willson said he can’t see the prices getting any dearer.

At the Naracoorte saleyards yesterday, buyers paid above 1000c/kg in all lamb categories and up to 1267c/kg for 12kg lambs.

Lamb indicators approaching historical peaks

Meat & Livestock Australia senior market analyst Adam Cheetham said the 12 cent jump in the Eastern States Trade Lamb Indicator to 868c/kg is not quite at the record mark of 884c/kg on 31 August last year.

“So we are a little off the peak, but obviously very quickly closing in on it.

“We are on the same price trajectory as last year, but it has been brought forward by two months.”

The ESDI for heavy lambs rose 25 cents to 899c/kg after yesterday’s saleyard sales, but that is below the historical peak of 917c/kg reached in September last year, Mr Cheetham said.

Page Tasmanian Freight managing director Geoff Page said about 6000 lambs and sheep were due to leave Tasmania on Monday and will arrive tonight, bound for Coles, the Australian Lambs Company, JBS Australia and Ararat Meat.

“They were going to be here on Tuesday and they will be here on Thursday.

Another 6000 lambs are due to leave Tasmania today and another 7000 tomorrow, he said. The business has been shipping 15,000-18,000 lambs and sheep from Tasmania every week for the past six months.

Mr Page said the company, started by his grandfather Reg, has been transporting prime lambs from Tasmania every year since 1964.

“He started sending 10,000-15,000 a year and now our company alone is sending out 400,000 sheep and lambs every year.”


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your comment will not appear until it has been moderated.
Contributions that contravene our Comments Policy will not be published.


Get Sheep Central's news headlines emailed to you -