Domestic Lamb

Producers pass-in lambs as saleyard and grid prices dip

Terry Sim, February 18, 2015
These 3-4 month-old 16.2kg cwt Poll Dorset lambs at Walcha sold for $105 on AuctionsPlus on Tuesday

These 3-4 month-old 16.2kg cwt Poll Dorset lambs at Walcha sold for $105 on AuctionsPlus on Tuesday

Sheep and lamb yardings dropped in major eastern states saleyards and agents passed in lambs this week as producers reacted to processors bringing prices back last week.

Lamb yardings almost halved at Forbes, Bendigo, Ballarat and Naracoorte. Some agents also passed in pens of lambs at Bendigo, but sold them to processors after the sale at improved rates.

Several lots of light lambs were also passed-in on AuctionsPlus sales this week, but restockers took the opportunity in some saleyards to fill orders while processors stood back.

As a result of grid rates hitting 550-590c/kg cwt in recent weeks, agents are being told major domestic and export processors, including Coles and Swift Australia, have weeks of lamb supplies contracted direct.

Less saleyard competition followed by falling grid rates

Coincidentally, eastern states processors this week dropped their over-the-hook prices, with most quoting falls in lamb and mutton rates to the National Livestock Reporting Service.

In NSW, the NLRS said over-the-hook lamb rates across all weight ranges eased this week, after weakening saleyard prices at the close of last week. Heavy weight mutton prices also edged slightly lower, while light and medium weights remained unchanged.

NSW’s OTH rates for 2-4 score lambs this week are: 18-22kg, 490-580c/kg, down 6 cents; 22-24kg, 510-580c/kg, down 9c; 224-26kg, 510-560c/kg, down 4c; Merinos 16-22kg, 40-520c/kg, down 3c. The 2-4 score mutton rates are: 14-18kg, 250-310c/kg, no change; 18-24kg, 280-360c/kg, nc; 24kg+, 320-360c/kg, down 5c.

In Victoria, the NLRS said most over-the-hook lamb categories came back this week, with trade weight carcases reaching tops of 580c/kg cwt. Mutton rates were also slightly lower this week, with medium weight mutton averaging 330c/kg cwt

Victoria’s 2-4 score OTH lamb rates this week are: 16-18kg, 560-570c/kg, nc; 18-24kg, 560-580c/kg, down 3c; 24-26kg, 540-560c/kg, down 5c; 26kg+, 540c/kg, down 10c; Merinos 16-22kg, 510c/kg, nc. The 2-4 score OTH mutton rates are: 14-18kg, 270-350c/kg, down 3c; 18-24kg, 310-360c/kg, down2c; 24kg+, 290-340c/kg, down 2c.

In SA, the NLRS said most contributors made slight downward adjustments to over-the-hook lamb rates, with trade and heavy weight categories an average of 3c/kg cwt lower than last week. Mutton rates slipped 8c/kg cwt across all categories

SA’s 2-4 score OTH lambs rates are: 16-18kg, 550c/kg, nc; 18-24kg, 560-580c/kg, down 3c; 24-26kg+, 540-560c/kg, down 3c; Merinos 16-22kg, 520c/kg, nc. The 2-4 score OTH mutton rates are: 14-18kg, 210-310c/kg, down 8c; 18-24kg, 270-310c/kg, down 8c; 24kg+, 310-350c/kg, down 8c.

In WA, the NLRS quoted increased over-the-hook rates for lambs and no change in mutton prices. WA’s 2-4 score OTH lamb rates are: 16-18kg, 450-510c/kg, up 15c; 18-22kg, 510-540c/kg, up 10c; 22-26kg, 520-540c/kg, +15c; 26kg+, 470-520c/kg, up 20c; Merinos 16-22kg, 400-480c/kg, up 7c. The 2-4 score mutton rates are: 14-18kg, 230-240c/kg, nc; 18-24kg+, 240-280c/kg, nc.

In Tasmania, the NLRS quoted over-the-hook rates for lamb and mutton as unchanged. Tasmania’s 2-4 score OTH lamb rates are: 0-16kg, 460-480c/kg; 16-18kg, 480-500c/kg; 18-22kg, 510-540c/kg; 22-26kg+, 520-540c/kg. The 2-4 score sheep rates are: 0-14kg, 280-320c/kg; 14-18kg, 290-330c/kg; 18-24kg, 310-330c/kg; 24kg+, 300-330c/kg.

Dubbo’s trade lambs $4-$8 cheaper

In NSW on Monday in the Dubbo saleyards the agents yarded 20,870 lambs, 3130 fewer than last week, and 9660 sheep, 3110 less.

The NLRS said it was a plainer quality yarding of lambs consisting of some good lines of trade and heavy weights along with larger numbers of lightweights. All the regular buyers operated in a cheaper market.

Lightweight lambs were least affected, falling by $3. The 12-18kg cwt 2 scores sold from $50-$93. Trade lambs were $4-$8 cheaper with 18-22kg 3 scores selling from $85-$122 to average 500c/kg cwt.

Heavy weight lambs were $6-$10 cheaper with over 22kg 4 scores selling from $114-$172. Merino lambs were up to $6 cheaper with the trade weights selling from $72-$109. Heavy weight Merinos sold to $124. Restockers paid to $77 and hoggets sold to $110.

In the plainer quality sheep yarding, Merino ewes and wethers were $4-$7 cheaper and crossbred ewes sold $3 easier. Plain condition Merino ewes sold from $30-$69 while the better 3 and 4 score ewes sold from $64-$116 for Merinos and to $110 for crossbreds. The 3 and 4 score Merino wethers sold from $78-$115.

Ray White Rural Dubbo auctioneer David Armitage said some heavy lamb lines sold up to $15 cheaper than last week, but no lambs were passed in.

“It was certainly a considerably cheaper trend.”

He said in his area producers do have some pasture feed, though stock water is a problem.

“They will hold lambs for a little while to put more weight on them – all we need is a rain.

“If we get good widespread rain I think that will change that market altogether.”

He said producers would become accepting of the lower prices as the season dries.

“If the season changes and they start to get feed they will keep some lambs and put some weight on them.”

“The buyers can only buy to their instructions, but I don’t think the quality of the yarding was as good as the previous week,” he said.

“I don’t think the weight was there in the lambs, though some of the top end lambs weren’t very far away from the prices of the week before.”

Well-finished lambs at Tamworth $4-$6 down

In the Tamworth saleyards on Monday, the agents yarded 3500 lambs, 150 fewer than last week and 2250 sheep, 500 more.

The NLRS said the quality of the lambs was fair to good. However, they comprised a fair percentage of light lambs and young 1st X ewes suitable for restocker and finishing orders. There were fewer well-finished lambs suitable for trade and export orders. The regular buyers attended, but demand for lambs to process was down.

Restocker demand for the young first cross ewes was strong with prices varying greatly depending on growth for age. Restocker lambs sold to a slightly cheaper trend with breed quality a factor. Well-finished trade and heavy weight lambs suffered from a fall in demand to show a cheaper trend of $4-$6.

The sheep market was firm to slightly dearer with quite a few well-finished lots. There was also a fair supply of medium weight Merino wethers carrying almost a full fleece.

Forbes trade and heavy lambs $3-$5 easier

In the Forbes saleyards on Tuesday, the agents yarded 21,200 lambs, 10,900 fewer than last week, and 8750 sheep, 450 less.

The NLRS said lamb quality improved slightly from the previous sale with good numbers of finished lambs along with plainer types. The usual buyers operated in a firm to easier market, dependant on quality.

Light lambs eased $5 selling from $86-$99. Trade weights were $3-$5 cheaper with prices ranging from $96-$125. Heavy and extra heavy lambs were also firm to $5 easier with the better finished lambs holding firm. Heavy lambs sold from $126-$136 with extra heavy lambs receiving from $137-$187. Carcase prices averaged from 528c/kg-565c/kg.

Merinos made up the majority of the mutton offering and quality was very mixed. Merino ewes sold from $72-$115. Crossbred ewes ranged from $73-$115 and Dorper ewes sold from $65-$99.

Inverell lambs $10-$15 cheaper

In the Inverell saleyards on Tuesday, the agents yarded 2720 lambs and 1064 sheep.

The NLRS said the lamb yarding contained a good supply of trade weights. There were several pens of heavy lambs and light lambs were also in fair numbers. Quality was mixed with some good runs of well-finished lambs, along with several lots of lambs showing some dryness.

Competition was weaker with most lambs selling $10-$15 cheaper. Restockers were active in the market acquiring most of the light weight lambs. The yarding of mutton consisted of several pens of well finished 3 and 4 score heavy weights, along with a good supply of medium and light weight sheep. The market saw little change, although some sales of the light sheep were slightly easier.

Agents pass in lambs at Bendigo

In Victoria at the Bendigo saleyards on Monday, the agents yard 15,644 lambs, 10,585 fewer than last week, and 7432 sheep, 749 less.

The NLRS said there was a noticeable drop in lamb supplies as producers reacted to the cheaper rates of the previous week. All the regular buyers attended but not all operated and the market for lamb and mutton was cheaper, with the heaviest slaughter stock the most affected.

Lamb prices tended to vary based on quality and weight and sales ranged from a few dollars cheaper to up to $12 lower in places. The market reached a top of $170 for a quality pen of export lambs estimated to weigh about 32kg cwt with a $9 skin. There were only a few pens of extra heavy lambs which sold above $160.

Bidding for store and light weight slaughter lambs in the yarding were was the least affected by the softer trend, with most sales remaining in a range of $70-$95. Store competition was mainly from Swan Hill and Finley, with some local orders.

The best quality trade lambs suiting the top end domestic orders held their value the best at $125-$138, making upwards of 560c/kg cwt at times. Bidding was more selective on the plainer bred and shaped trade lambs which generally sold from $100-$122, fluctuating from an estimated 480c/kg-540c/kg cwt. Agents did pass odd pens in.

Most export lambs, 26-28kg cwt, sold from $140-$158, ranging from about 510c/kg-530c/kg cwt. Some heavier Merino lambs were yarded which made up to $133, although on a carcase basis they were cheaper than last week.

The sheep yarding comprised some good lines of Merino wethers and ewes, but there were more very plain and lightweight sheep at the bottom end of the market. Extra heavy crossbred ewes couldn’t maintain the rates of last week and eased by up to $20, reaching a top of $122. The lead pens of Merino wethers, most in big skins, sold from $105-$132.60. The middle run of slaughter ewes sold from $60-$80, with very light and plain types making $12-$52. The better quality slaughter sheep ranged from about 320c/kg-360c/kg cwt, with some sales of Merinos higher.

Passed-in lambs sold later

Elders Bendigo livestock manager Nigel Starick said his clients passed in a couple of pens of lambs and resold them afterwards at improved rates.

“It was no worries, the money was there.”

Mr Starick said recent saleyard lamb prices got too dear for processors.

“The prices got to an unsustainable level.”

He has told his clients with lambs to “sit for three weeks” if they have feed and water.

“If they can hold lambs, I’ve told them to hold for three weeks, because I think there will be a rectification.

“There has been a big glut recently, with Bendigo consistently yarding 10,000-11,000 lambs over the last three weeks in February, which is huge.”

Agent are sending a lot of wethers into markets, because there are no live export orders operating, he said.

“Even though prices were softer on Monday, it is still a hell of a rate for wethers.”

Ballarat trade and heavy lambs $5-$10 back

In the Ballarat saleyards on Tuesday, the agents yarded 20,519 lambs, 8063 fewer than last week, and 11,955 sheep, 6583 less.

The NLRS said the quality of the trade and heavy weight lambs was good, although the heavy lines weren’t carrying as much weight as last week. The usual buyers operated in a generally cheaper market.

Better presented trade weight lambs sold firm and the heavy lambs were mostly $5-$10 down. Feeders and restockers were active and paid from $84-$125 for lambs, $86-$107 for Merinos ewes and from $56-$86.50 for crossbred ewes.

Light weight 1 and 2 score lambs sold from $58-$95. Light trade 2 and 3 score lambs sold from $90-$121. Trade weight 3 and 4 score lambs sold from $115-$140, averaging around 550c/kg cwt. Heavy 3 and 4 score lambs sold from $131-$167 and averaged 520c/kg-530c/kg cwt.

The reduced sheep offering included all weights and grades with several pens of heavy Merino wethers, near full wool. Heavier sheep sold a few dollars easier and the light and medium sheep sold from $2-$5 easier. Light weight 1 and 2 score sheep sold from $47-$67. Medium weight 2 and 3 score sheep sold from $54-$95, with the Merino sheep averaging around 350c/kg cwt and the crossbreds averaging around 300c/kg cwt. Heavy 3 to 5 score sheep sold from $72-$119. Heavy Merino wethers sold from $83-$124 with the medium weights making $65-$102, or about 355c/kg-360c/kg cwt.

Lamb ease $6-$13 at Dublin

At the SA Livestock Exchange at Dublin on Monday, the agents yarded 10,852 lambs, 403 more than last week, and 2128 sheep, 872 fewer.

The NLRS said the very good quality yarding of crossbred and Merino lambs sold to easing competition from the usual trade and processor buyers, who bid only sparingly. However, feeder and restocker buyers were undeterred by the prices and bid fiercely on suitable light weight crossbreds, pushing rates dearer.

Light weight 3 score, shorn crossbred lambs were targeted by feeder buyers and values lifted $10, to $92-$113. Light weight 3 score crossbreds to trade buyers eased $13, selling from $92-$102 and averaging 486c/kg cwt. Light weight Merinos to restockers eased $11, selling from $52-$68, and trade weight 3 scores to processors eased $6, selling from $90-$97 and averaging 441c/kg cwt.

Light trade weight 4 score crossbred lambs sold up to last week’s rates, ranging from $106-$131 and averaging 531c/kg cwt. Heavy trade weight 4 score crossbreds eased $5, selling from $116-$130, to average 498c/kg cwt, and heavy weight 4 scores eased $7-$9, making $130-$160 and averaging 506c/kg cwt. Heavy weight 3 score Merinos sold from $110-$130 or 425c/kg-446c/kg cwt. Extra heavy weight crossbreds eased $11 to $160-$170.

The smaller yarding of mixed sheep sold to strong trade and processor competition. Restockers operated on woolly Merino ewes from $60-$120. Light weight 2 score ewes to processors lifted $12, to $61-$90 and averaging 308c/kg cwt. Heavy weight 3 score ewes lifted $8, to $75-$115, averaging 320c/kg cwt. Wethers were scarce and heavy weights sold from $81-$115, to average 331c/kg cwt. Heavy weight rams attracted very strong demand and made $103-$111.

Seed-affected lambs discounted $20 at Naracoorte

In the Naracoorte saleyards on Tuesday, the agents yarded 2450 lambs, 2098 fewer than last week, and 768 sheep, 428 fewer.

The NLRS said a smaller field of buyers bid carefully and, along with limited restocker demand, prices fell across the market. Lambs with unknown seed status or with skins affected by seed were discounted by up to $20 and more in places.

Lightweight 2 score lambs mainly ranged from $86-$95 to the trade and lightweight trade 2 and 3 score lambs made from $74-$110. Trade weight 3 score lambs ranged from $103-$120 and averaged 520c/kg cwt, a fall of $8-$10. Restockers purchased lambs to grow-on from $81-$109. Heavy 4 score lambs ranged from $113-$142, a fall of $10-$15, while hoggets ranged from $64-$97.

Fewer ewes were offered and the lightweight types sold from $55-$61. Medium weights mainly sold from $60-$82 at an average of 330c/kg cwt, a fall of up to $5. Heavy weight ewes ranged from $84-$102 to fall by up to $15. Some good Merino wethers were offered and the lighter types sold to $72. The heavier Merino wethers sold from $102-$110.  Rams mainly sold for $48-$81.

Less live export competition at Muchea

In WA at the Muchea saleyards, the agents yarded 10,448 lambs, 694 more than last week, and 5000 sheep, 1634 fewer.

The NLRS said continuing hot dry conditions led to substantially more very light Merino lambs being yarded. There were moderate supplies of prime, light weight and crossbred store lambs. Quality continued to decline across the yarding with weight and condition reducing. All buyers were present however live export competition eased. Quality impacted prices with the better quality drafts close to firm but secondary and very light drafts were back across the yarding.

Very light Merino lambs made $5-$45 and were $8 lower due to numbers and quality. Light lamb to air freight processors, feeders and restockers eased $1-$4 and made $40-$99. Trade lambs sold from $90-$116 to be $3 easier and average around 510c/kg for the prime drafts with secondary drafts close to 490c/kg. Heavy lambs sold from $112-$139.50 and average 510c/kg cwt.

Ewe prices dropped $4 for the better drafts and the light weight lines were back around $10. Light ewes made $25-$52 and the 2 score ewes sold to processors at $40-$73, back $5. Better conditioned ewes, including heavy weight drafts, sold from $55-$86 to be $4 cheaper.

Restockers purchased light weight and conditioned mature ewes for $25-$52 and Merino ewe hoggets made from $40 and up to $92 for a well-grown, quality draft. Wether prices eased on reduced live export competition, with export weight drafts making $65-$110 and back $5. Lighter drafts to restockers and feeders also eased with prices from $40-$80 for most.

Sources: NLRS, AuctionsPlus.

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