Domestic Lamb

Processors pay more for lambs as quality supplies tighten

Sheep Central, March 25, 2015
These 16.8kg cwt White Suffolk cross lambs at Narromine sold for $99 on AuctionsPlus this week

These 16.8kg cwt White Suffolk cross lambs at Narromine sold for $99 on AuctionsPlus this week

Processors paid more for lambs and sheep in saleyards mid-week as some producers tightened supply in response to the recent price falls.

After Tuesday’s saleyard sales, the National Livestock Reporting Service quoted all eastern states and national indicators for lamb and mutton as improved.

Despite the NLRS quoting processors as maintaining over-the-hook rates for lamb and mutton at lower levels this week due to consignments booked direct to abattoirs, saleyard prices early this week indicate an earlier than expected tightening in quality supplies.

Landmark Bendigo auctioneer Richard Leitch said the $10-$15 lift in lamb prices at Bendigo was not surprising due to Monday’s yarding being about half the number offered last week.

“There are plenty of half-finished lambs available, but not a lot of real good lambs.

“The $10-$15 rise was on those better lambs.”

Mr Leitch said two weeks ago he was quoted a hook price of 420-430c/kg cwt for Merino lambs, but had them killed this week at 500c/kg.

He expected supplies of quality trade and export lambs to tighten in mid-April.

“Come mid-April I don’t where they are going to find quality lambs.

“It will tighten even more – because of the feed situation people haven’t been able to finish lambs.”

Domestic demand lifts NSW saleyard prices

Ray White Rural director at Dubbo, David Armitage, said the reduced lamb yarding, its good quality and extra trade lamb demand helped lamb prices this week.

“There were not a lot of heavy lambs in the market, but they pushed them along a bit as well.”

He said the pre-booking delay for nearby works was only about a week and it appeared the stronger competition came from domestic wholesalers forced to pay more money for quality lambs. The yarding was a normal turn-off with the dry season.

“We are in a situation where they do need to sell them.”

Mr Armitage said the mutton market was also solid.

Ballarat price lift was across all categories

Crawford Dowling director Barclay Dowling at Ballarat said the $5-$10 price lift in the saleyards this week was due to reduced supplies lifting processor demand.

Despite abattoir booking delays of 2-3 weeks for lambs, he said processors always leave room for market lambs.

“There is always a little space there and numbers have dropped off with the drop in price.

“People have held off and I suppose we’ll send them over the hooks rather than to the market.”

He said higher prices were paid at Ballarat for all lambs, from light to export weight categories.

“There was more lift in the trade lambs.”

Looking forward, Mr Dowling expected prices to be “alright” after Easter.

“What it is going to be like next week depends on numbers I would say.”

He said there were some good quality lambs being yarded.

“People have been able to do a good job after January rain got the feed going and the lambs off feeders were pretty good.”

NLRS indicator shows lift in restocker interest

The NLRS indicator for restocker lambs lifted 22 cents to 515c/kg this week, leading the general improvement in carcase lamb and mutton indicators.

After Tuesday saleyard sales, the other Eastern States Daily Indicators were: Merinos, 446c/kg, up 4 cents; light, 469c/kg, up 4c; trade, 509c/kg, up 9c; heavy, 520c/kg, up 11c. The national trade lamb indicator lifted 9 cents to 510c/kg and the heavy indice was up 11 cents to 521c/kg.

The ES and national mutton indicators were both up three cents to 333c/kg.

Over-the-hook rates kept down

In NSW, the NLRS said over-the-hook lamb and mutton rates across all weight ranges were lower this week in response to supplies both direct-to-works and at the saleyards remaining high due to the dry conditions.

NSW’s OTH rates for 2-4 score lambs this week are: 18-20kg, 460-560c/kg, down 6 cents; 20-22kg, 500-560c/kg, down 6c; 22-24kg, 500-550c/kg, down 7c; 24-26kg, 500-520c/kg, down 10c; Merinos 16-22kg, 400-480c/kg, no change. The 2-4 score mutton rates are: 14-18kg, 220-320c/kg, down 15c ; 18-24kg, 250-340c/kg, down 12c; 24kg+, 290-330c/kg, down 10c.

In Victoria, the NLRS said over-the-hook lamb rates declined across all categories, except Merinos, with trade weight categories topping at 550c/kg cwt. Mutton rates were also lower, with medium weight carcases averaging 323c/kg cwt.

Victoria’s OTH rates for 2-4 score lambs are: 16-18kg, 520c/kg, down 20c; 18-24kg, 520-550c/kg, down 10-13c; 24-26kg, 510-520c/kg, down 15c; 26kg+, 510, down 10c; Merinos 16-22kg, 500c/kg, no change. The 2-4 score mutton rates are: 14-18kg, 260-330c/kg, down 10c; 18-24kg, 310-340c/kg, down 10c; 24kg+, 280-320c/kg, down 17c.

In SA, the NLRS said over-the-hook trade and heavy weight lamb rates were 3c/kg cwt lower this week on average, while light weight and Merino lambs remained unchanged. Mutton rates fell an average of 23c/kg cwt across all categories.

SA’s OTH rates for 2-4 score lambs are: 16-18kg, 500c/kg, nc; 18-24kg, 500-550c/kg, down 3c; 24-26kg, 500-510c/kg, down 3c; Merinos 16-22kg, 480c/kg, nc. The 2-4 score sheep rates are: 14-18kg, 220-320c/kg, down 23c; 18-24kg, 270-320c/kg, down 23c; 24kg+, 320c/kg, down 23c.

In Western Australia, the NLRS quoted the over-the-hook lamb and mutton rates as unchanged.

WA’s OTH rates for 2-4 score lambs are: 16-18kg, 450-530c/kg; 18-22kg, 510-535c/kg; 22-26kg, 520c/kg; 26kg+, 470-530c/kg; Merinos 16-22kg, 400-480c/kg. The 2-4 score sheep rates are: 14-18kg, 230-240c/kg; 18-24kg, 240-280c/kg.

Tasmania’s over-the-hook rates for mutton and lamb were unchanged this week, according to the NLRS.

Tasmania’s OTH rates for 2-4 score lambs are: 0-16kg, 460-480c/kg; 16-18kg, 480-550c/kg; 18-22kg, 510-540c/kg; 22-26kg, 520-540c/kg. The 2-4 score mutton rates are: 0-14kg, 280-300c/kg; 14-18kg, 290-330c/kg; 18-24kg, 310-330c/kg; 24kg+, 300-330c/kg.

Dubbo trade lambs $6-$9 dearer

At the Dubbo saleyards on Monday, the agents yarded 15,690 lambs, 7250 fewer than last week, and 9920 sheep, 3270 less.

The NLRS said it was a very mixed yarding with a large percentage of lightweight lambs. There were limited numbers of ideal trade and heavy weight lambs. All the regular buyers operated in a stronger market.

Lightweight lambs were $5 dearer with the 12-18kg cwt 2 scores selling from $37-$91. Trade lambs were $6-$9 dearer with the 18-22kg 3 scores selling from $82-$122 to average 508c/kg cwt. Heavy weight lambs were $7-$11 dearer with the over 22kg 4 scores making $108-$168, to average 521c/kg. Merino lambs were $7 dearer with trade weight Merinos selling from $72-$100. Very light Merino lambs to the restockers sold from $21-$45 and crossbred lambs sold to restockers for $105. Hoggets sold to $110.

It was a mixed quality yarding of mutton, but most grades sold $5-$9 dearer. The 2 score ewes sold from $24-$73 and the better 3 and 4 scores, Merinos and crossbreds, made $65-$110. The 3 and 4 score Merino wethers sold from $83-$107.

Tamworth trade lambs lift $2-$4

At the Tamworth saleyards on Monday, the agents yarded 3105 lambs, 420 fewer than last week, and 1880 sheep, 350 less.

The NLRS said the quality of the lambs was fair to very good, with a good supply of heavy weights. There was a good selection of trade weights, however restocker lambs were scarce. The usual buying orders were in place.

Market trends through the good quality medium and heavy trade lambs were $2-$4 dearer. Secondary quality lambs saw little change. Heavy lambs remained firm, however an increase in weight accounted for the dearer top price.

The quality of the sheep offering was fair to good. Medium and heavy ewes sold firm to dearer. The medium and heavy wethers were firm to a little cheaper.

Forbes trade lambs up $9-$11

At the Forbes saleyards on Tuesday, the agents yarded 19,800 lambs, 1330 fewer than last week, and 5350 sheep, 3392 less.

The NLRS said lamb quality was mixed, with excellent numbers of well-finished trade and heavy weights, and a good percentage of dry lambs. All the usual buyers operated in a dearer market.

Light processing lambs ranged from $65-$90. Light Merinos made $56-$77. Trade Merinos sold from $93-$112. The medium and heavy trade lambs sold $9-$11 dearer, from $91-$125, at around 510-520c/kg cwt.

Heavy lambs gained $6-$10, from $114-$157. Lambs heavier than 26kg cwt were firm on average and included large drafts of extra heavy weight over 35kg. Most sold from $156-$190, at around 480-510c/kg cwt.

Mutton quality varied. Prices were $8-$12 better on most lines and especially on the medium weights. Medium weight ewes sold from $65-$88. Heavy crossbreds made $93-$112. Heavy Merino wethers sold from $98-$114, most averaging 360-380c/kg cwt.

Bendigo’s domestic slaughter lambs up $5-$12

In Victoria at the Bendigo saleyards the agents yarded 9867 lambs, 7447 fewer than last week, and 3762 sheep, 3812 less.

The NLRS said the substantial decline in lamb and sheep numbers came as farmers reacted to the cheaper prices recorded in the past week. The usual buyers attended and the smaller yarding did have an impact on the market.

Slaughter lambs were mostly $5-$12 dearer. The best quality pens of heavy domestic lambs suiting supermarket orders, recorded the most price improvement in the lamb sale. The market reached a top of $171 for heavy export lambs estimated 33kg cwt – one of about 10 pens of extra heavy lambs to make more than $160.

Prices for light lambs trended dearer overall, but results varied breed for quality and finish. There was only limited restocker support from Swan Hill and the local Bendigo area, with most sales to the paddock being plainer and smaller lambs at $56-$86. The general run of trade and lightweight lambs for slaughter sold from $90-$116. Several agents offered light and trade Merino lambs which sold from $56-$122, to average around 480c/kg cwt.

Competition for the lead pens of heavy trade lambs was strong from the major domestic buyers with prices from $125-$138 to average 530-540c/kg cwt. Select pens of these lambs reached a top of 550c/kg cwt at times. Extra heavy export lambs sold from $160-$171, with the next draft down making from $145-$158. On a carcase weight basis, the heaviest lambs sold for an estimated 500c/kg, improving to 520c/kg for 26-28kg lines.

The mutton yarding more than halved and prices were significantly dearer than a week ago, up $10-$16 to regain most of the previous week’s losses. Heavy crossbred ewes sold to a top of $115, while a run of Merino sheep with high value skins sold to a top of $108/head. It was estimated the general run of mutton returned 330-340c/kg cwt.

Ballarat lambs $5-$10 dearer

In the Ballarat saleyards on Tuesday, the agents yarded 16,429 lambs, 6924 fewer than last week, and 7032 sheep, 59 more.

The NLRS said the quality of the trade weight and heavy lambs was good. The usual buyers operated in dearer market with lambs generally selling from $5-$10 dearer than last week. Several pens of extra heavy lambs reached $170. Restockers and feeders were active and mostly paid from $78-$108.20, though lighter drafts made $40-$58. They also paid from $65-$90 for Merino wethers.

Light weight 1 and 2 score lambs sold from $60-$70. Light trade 2 and 3 score lambs made $85-$115. Trade weight 3 and 4 score lambs sold from $104-$138, from 500-580c/kg cwt to average around 530c/kg. Heavy 3 and 4 score lambs sold mostly from $132-$168. Extra heavy export lambs sold from $169-$170. Heavy hoggets sold to $120.

Sheep quality was mixed, but there were some good runs of near-full wool Merino sheep. Most sheep sold dearer, to be $2-$5 up on last week and more on some selected lots. Heavy full wool Merino wethers sold to $119. Light weight 1 and 2 score sheep sold from $44-$78. Medium weight 2 and 3 score sheep sold from $55-$93, from 280-390c/kg cwt to average around 340c/kg. Heavy 3 to 5 score sheep sold from $74-$109, with heavy Merino wethers making $86-$119, to average around 370c/kg cwt. Medium weight wethers sold from $72-$95.50. Rams made $23-$80.

Dublin’s heavy trade lambs up $7

In SA at the SA Livestock Exchange at Dublin on Tuesday, the agents yarded 10,895 lambs, 113 more than last week, and 2059 sheep, 678 fewer.

The NLRS said the mixed quality yarding crossbred and Merino lambs sold to stronger trade and processor competition from the usual buyers. Feeder and restocker buyers were only occasional combatants.

The few lambs purchased by feeders sold from $69-$114, while light weight 3 score crossbreds to trade buyers sold unchanged, from $100-$110, to average 516c/kg cwt. Light trade weight 4 scores were in demand and lifted $3, selling from $110-$134 and averaging 546c/kg. Heavy trade weights lifted $7, selling from $120-$139, to average 539cc/kg and heavy weights lifted $9-$10, from $132-$161, to return 515-522c/kg.

Light weight Merino lambs were plentiful. Restockers paid $30-$77 for lambs to feed on while trade weight Merinos lifted $2-$10, from $95-$110 and averaging 478c/kg cwt. Heavy weights sold from $110-$128.

The mixed quality sheep sold to the usual trade and processor buyers, and despite the reduced yarding, prices eased across most categories. Heavy weight Merino hoggets sold from $102-$116 and crossbreds made $98-$121. Light weight 2 score ewes eased $4, from $50-$75 or an average of 269c/kg cwt. Heavy weight 3 scores eased $5, selling from $70-$94 and averaging 277c/kg. Wethers were scarce and heavy weight 3 scores lifted very marginally, making $76-$101 or 299-347c/kg. Heavy weight rams sold from $92-$101.

Naracoorte ewes $6-$8 dearer

At the Naracoorte saleyards on Tuesday, the agents yarded 1963 lambs, 710 fewer than last week, and 1694 sheep, 154 less.

The NLRS said the usual buyers were present, but not all were active. Most of the lamb yarding lacked condition, but they sold to a dearer trend.

Lightweight lambs to the trade ranged from $84-$96. A number of restockers purchased lambs to turn out sold from $65-$106. Trade weight 2 and 3 score lambs ranged from $91-$118 to be $5-$8 dearer and average 500c/kg cwt. Heavy 4 score lambs ranged from $122-$133 with hoggets making $85-$96.

All ewes were $6-$8 dearer with large lines of lightweight 1 and 2 score ewes making $23-$60. Medium weight 2 and 3 score ewes ranged from $62-$82, averaging 300c/kg cwt. Heavy 3 and 4 score types sold from $75-$107. Wethers ranged from $65-$105 and the majority of rams returned $28-$58.

Muchea prime lambs up $5-$10

In WA at the Muchea saleyards on Tuesday, the agents yarded 8258 lambs, 2258 more than last week, and 5134 sheep, 636 more.

The NLRS said the quality of the yarding lifted. Most of the lambs were lighter weight secondary drafts. However, more prime lambs were yarded and met great demand, to sell $5-$10 dearer for trade types. All buyers were present and active.

Light store lambs to restockers, including a moderate number of Merino lambs, made $29-$80 and were firm. Light lamb to air freight processors and feeders were also dearer, most making $64-$89. The increased number of trade lambs included 18-22kg lambs that made $89-$128, a $5-$10 increase, to average 560c/kg cwt. Heavy lambs sold from $126-$135, with most sales firm.

Ewe supplies included some good medium and heavy weight drafts, but most were lighter in condition. Prices rose by $6-$8 on quality mutton and by $2-$4 on lighter lines. Wether and ram prices were solid and remained firm on last week.

Light weight mutton drafts made $45-$67 and the 2 score sheep sold to processors for $65-$77, to be $2-$4 dearer. Better conditioned drafts, including the heavy weights, sold from $79-$95 to be $6 dearer.

Wether prices were firm. Export weight wether drafts sold to restockers and processors for $79-$100, to be firm. Lighter weight and store wether categories made from $68-$77 to also remain firm.

Young rams were also $2-$4 dearer, with ram lambs selling from $66-$97. Young drafts sold to processors and export feeders for $37-$60. Old ram prices to processors were firm, from $41-$60.

Sources: MLA, NLRS, Ray White Rural, Landmark, Crawford Dowling.


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  1. eddie lee, March 27, 2015

    Very good site to get a comprehensive view of the eastern Australia lamb market.

  2. Lloyd Dunlop, March 26, 2015

    A great report as usual. I look forward to it every week. Very comprehensive. Well done.

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