Sheep and lamb prices recorded across Australia held up strongly during 2014, despite the big surge recorded in turnoff due to weather.
Following the hottest spring on record, summer 2013-14 was warmer than average for Australia and coinciding with this was another season of below average rainfall across the eastern states.
Autumn was no exception from the string of warm seasons, influencing turnoff; however, the warm conditions coupled with some timely late season rain did help sowing activities.
A very dry winter and spring persisted across the majority of the eastern states, bringing above average temperatures, as well. Given the seasonal conditions over the year, it is not surprising that sheep turnoff in 2014 will be higher year-on-year.
National lamb yardings, as reported by MLA’s National Livestock Reporting Service, increased 3 percent year-on-year, to around 9.9 million head. November 2014 saw lamb turnoff hit the highest point for the year, at 951,693 head, driven by Victorian yardings. Eastern states average weekly lamb slaughter was 4pc higher year-on-year, at 361,353 head. The last week of September saw the largest lamb kill for the year, at 413,197 head.
National young lamb supply was 17pc higher year-on-year, at around 2.7 million head. The divide between young and old lamb classes became greater during winter as earlier and sustained higher young lamb turnoff was recorded.
Despite conditions deteriorating, restocker lamb purchases in Victoria ramped-up in November. Store lamb buyers were out in force securing any lambs suitable to go onto failed crops or stubble. It is expected that these lamb will filter back through the system early next year.
Although supply showed no signs of tightening throughout the year, national lamb prices managed to climb. The Eastern States Trade Lamb Indicator (ESTLI) tracked well above 2013 levels, averaging 513¢/kg cwt during 2014. The national restocker lamb indicator was 31pc higher, on 479¢/kg, while Merino lambs gained 46pc, to 449¢/kg. The light lamb indicator increased 28pc, to 467¢/kg, while the national trade lamb indicator improved 23pc, to 512¢/kg. Heavy lambs were 21pc higher on 523¢/kg.
National sheep supply was 16pc higher year-on-year, at close to 4.6 million head, as dry conditions throughout the year saw sustained high saleyard turnoff and kill levels. February and March of this year were the highest turnoff months, with more than 520,000 head yarded. Eastern states average weekly mutton slaughter was 3pc higher year-on-year, at 149,918 head. Early February was the largest sheep kill for the year, with 196,088 head processed that week, correlating with the higher supply months of the year.
Although supply was higher, global demand was strong, with processors particularly dominant across the saleyards, as there was little restocker interest due to the dry conditions. The mutton indicator responded, increasing 56pc year-on-year, to average 311¢/kg.