Prime & Store Sheep Reports

Rain and wider competition lifts early 2024 lamb prices

Sheep Central, January 8, 2024

LAMB prices have opened strongly in southern Australia in 2024, reflecting the scarcity of quality heavy finished lambs and renewed producer confidence after recent rain.

In the first saleyard sales in the past week, lamb prices returned to 800c/kg-plus levels achieved in mid-December 2023, before some major processors stood out briefly from saleyard purchases and values reset lower.

In Hamilton last Wednesday, the centre’s first 2024 sale, lamb prices were quoted as $30-plus dearer than pre-Christmas rates, with Meat & Livestock Australia’s National Livestock Reporting Service reporting the best heavy lambs as making to $280, with most lambs to the trade realising 800-880c/kg cwt.

The Hamilton agents yarded 15,000 lambs, 8613 fewer than the last 2023 sale. The NLRS said quality was mixed with the yarding made up of mainly trade weight lambs and a smaller number of heavy weights and export lambs. A full field of processors were present including both supermarket chains and most were fully active resulting in a sale that was very strong over all categories. The market was so strong restockers and feeder interests present did not compete with the trade resulting in no lambs being purchased to return to the paddock, the NLRS said.

The NLRS said the sale started off very strong and gained momentum right through to the end with heavy lambs 26kg plus generating the most competition. The lighter lambs to the Middle East orders made 750-820c/kg. Light weight 12 to 16kg new season lambs made $95-$141. The 18-22kg lambs to the trade sold from $140-$228. The 22-26kg lines made $193-$268 and Hoggets sold to $120, the NLRS said.

At Bendigo today, the NLRS said lambs averaged $25-$35 dearer. Store buyers paid $32-$138 for lambs back to the paddock. Young light trade lambs to suit MK orders made $52-$140, young 18-22kg lambs sold from $128-$160 and 22-26kg lambs made $156-$188 to average of 660-725c/kg. The NLRS said shorn lambs were in demand, with 18-24kg making $138-$188 to average 780-810c/kg. The 24-26kg lambs made $180-$215 and the 26kg-plus lines sold from $183-$254 to average from 770-828c/kg.

The Bendigo agents yarded 4078 sheep, up 1488, and 14,281 lambs, 721 fewer. The agents drew for 27,000 lambs and sheep, but with the large amount of rain received in a widespread area yesterday numbers dropped back.

The NLRS said lamb quality improved over the yarding. Most of the usual buyers attended in a much stronger market across all categories with competition from store buyers pushing light lambs along and all processors were on the rail chasing numbers.

Bendigo’s small yarding of mutton of mixed quality sold to $20 dearer. A few pens of Merino wethers made to $66.  Merino ewes sold from $44-$91 to average 240-280c/kg and crossbred mutton made $33-$90 to average around 250c/kg cwt, the NLRS said.

Rain means plenty of feed for finishing lambs

Southern Grampians livestock auctioneer at Hamilton Bernie Grant said lamb prices in Hamilton last Wednesday were $30-$50 dearer than late December rates.

Mr Grant said the recent rain has meant any producers with shorn lambs on Summer crops would have plenty of feed for finishing.

“Some people aren’t in a hurry, to sell but some are still want to sell and take the money – – it’s a great situation to be in.”

Mr Grant said lamb prices this week picked up the $15-$20 dip in the last sale before Christmas, and more, to be “definitely $30-$50 dearer.”

He didn’t expect to see heavy lambs in big numbers until toward the end of February and early March.

“There will be plenty of lambs 22-30kgs, but no super heavy lambs until then, especially down our way.

“A lot of the lambs that have gonbe on crops have had the top end sold out of them, so the rest will take a bit long.”

Sources – NLRS and SGL.

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