TRADE and heavy lamb prices were softened by buyers this week as more new season lambs came into NSW saleyards and supermarkets started to turn away from heavier old lambs to buy suckers.
For the past few months domestic processors have been buying heavier lambs to maintain quality in their orders, but in NSW, supermarkets, butchers and light lamb exporters are now able to buy the heavier end of the new season lambs.
In SA, producers hit by lack of rain and frosts slowing pasture growth are starting to turn off light suckers early, but values for light lambs 14-16kg cwt are being held up by strong export or domestic side lamb orders.
Restocker demand at many centres, especially in SA, is being constrained by a lack of confidence, driven by seasonal conditions and rainfall outlook. In some cases, lack of feed in western SA is forcing producers to sell joined Merino ewes for their mutton value rather than risk not being able to support ewes and lambs in a tight season.
Quality Livestock auctioneer at Dublin Peter Reichstein said despite the tight season in parts of SA, at least producers had good options for all classes lambs and mutton, despite the lack of restocker demand. Many producers were nervous about the season and rain forecast rain for the next week was needed to restore confidence. But he said if the season stays dry many producers will turn off new season lambs early, “while the money is there.”
“I think a lot of blokes will sell lambs off and look after the ewes.”
Elders auctioneer at Dublin Matt Ward said if SA did not receive good general rain in the next two weeks, producers would be forced to sell “heaps of lambs”, especially on the west coast, Yorke Peninsula, through the Mallee and Upper South East SA. He said many 4-5-year-old ewes in the Upper SE SA have already been sent to abattoirs because of the season.
“If there isn’t a good rain then there will be a lot of lambs sold early and come October maybe there won’t be many lambs about.”
Dublin agents yarded about 500 new season crossbred lambs on Monday with the 0-18kg lines with $4-$7 skins making $68-$105 or 518-662c/kg, 18.1-20kg lambs with $8 skins, sold for $125 or 616c/kg and 20-22kg Dorpers with $1 skins made $142 or 641c/kg. Some light new season lamb lines have reportedly made 700-800c/kg cwt over the past two weeks, encouraging turn-off at lighter weights.
Forbes agent Scott Reid of VC Reid and Son said with new season lamb number hitting 3000 this week – about 8 percent of the yarding – supermarkets buying suckers were then only buying choice pens of older lambs. The supermarkets were also buying fewer pens of export weight lambs.
At Forbes on Tuesday, the National Livestock Reporting Service said agents sold about 3000 new season lambs, with 12.1-16kg Dorpers with $5 skins making $104 or 650c/kg and 12.1-16kg crossbreds with $5 skins sold for $62.20 or 381c/kg. The 20-24kg crossbred lambs, with $8-$10 skins sold for $136-$154 or 591-638c/kg.
At Dubbo on Monday, agents yarded about 500 new season lambs, with the NLRS reporting that 18-24kg lines with $10 skins made $126-$149 or 552-652c/kg.
In Victoria at Bendigo, only very small numbers of new season lambs are being yarded, with 18.1-20kg cwt crossbred lambs with a $6 skin making $107 or 532c/kg cwt and some secondary first cross wether lambs under 18kg with $2-$6 skins selling from $50.20-$89.20 or 402-533c/kg.
NLRS lamb indicators lose ground
The National Livestock Reporting Service reported all national and Eastern States Daily Indicators for lamb as losing ground mid-week, especially for restocker and Merino lambs, with mutton indices relatively firm.
After Tuesday’s saleyard sales, the ESDIs for lambs were: restockers 508c/kg, down 27 cents; Merino 528c/kg, down 14c; light 553c/kg, down 9c; trade 585c/kg, down 6c; heavy 587c/kg, down 12c. The national trade lamb indicator was down 7 cents to 584c/kg and the heavy lamb indice is 586c/kg, down 12 cents.
The ESDI for mutton finished on 395c/kg and the national is on 393c/kg, both down one cent.
Over-the-hook lamb rates up in Victoria, down in NSW
The NLRS said NSW over-the-hook lamb rates across all weight ranges were slightly lower this week. However, the majority of contributors kept their rates firm. Mutton rates moved slightly higher across all weight categories.
In Victoria, the NLRS said trade and heavy weight over-the-hook indicators edged higher this week, with supplies reportedly becoming more difficult to source. Mutton rates were unchanged on last week’s levels.
In South Australia, trhe NLRS said over-the-hook lamb indicators declined across all categories this week, with trade weights averaging 583c/kg cwt. Mutton rates were back 15c/kg cwt overall.
Over-the-hook rates for lamb and mutton were quoted as unchanged in Western Australia and Tasmania.
Dubbo trade lambs $2-$ cheaper
In NSW at the Dubbo saleyards on Monday, the agents yarded 25,830 lambs, 5715 more than last week, and 6475 sheep, 1230 more.
The NLRS said it was a fair to good quality yarding with a good mix of trade and heavy weight lambs and expected lighter weights.
Light weight lambs sold firm with the 12-18kg 2 scores making $54-$106. Trade lambs were $4 cheaper with the 18-22kg 3 scores selling from $94-$142 to average 583c/kg cwt. Heavy weight lambs were $5 cheaper, with the over 22kg 4 scores making $129-$182. Trade weight Merinos were firm to $2 cheaper at $82-$134, while the heavier weights over 22kg sold to $140. Hoggets were $4 dearer at $130.
Most mutton grades sold $6-$8 cheaper in a plainer quality yarding. The 2 score ewes sold from $35-$82, while the better 3 and 4 score Merinos made $68-$124 and some White Dorpers sold to $129. The 3 and 4 score Merino wethers sold from $80-$135.
Tamworth’s heavy lambs firm to $3 dearer
In the Tamworth saleyards on Monday, the agents yarded 3500 lambs, 325 fewer than last week, and 1450 sheep, 800 less.
The NLRS said it was a good quality lamb yarding, with most coming off crops. However, there were a few pens of light plain lambs. There was a good supply of trade weights and some light lambs, and good runs of well-finished heavy lambs. Trade lambs sold firm to $5 cheaper, while heavy lambs were firm to $3 dearer.
The mixed quality mutton yarding had several well-finished lines and a few pens of light 2 score sheep. The market was not as strong as last week, with sales varying from firm to slightly cheaper.
Forbes’ old trade lambs $3-$4 cheaper
On Tuesday, in the Forbes saleyards, the agents yarded 36,800 lambs, 3123 more than last week, and 9400 sheep, 4927 more.
The NLRS said lamb quality was good particularly in the 3000 new season lambs. The heavy grades were also generally well-finished in the yarding of mostly heavy and trade weights, with some good runs of Merino lambs. All the buyers were operating in a cheaper market. The heavy grades experienced the biggest price falls and trade weights were only slightly cheaper.
Light lambs to the processors sold $4 easier and averaged $108. New season trade weight lambs sold from $136-$154. Medium and heavy trade weight old lambs were $3-$4 cheaper, or 570-580c/kg cwt. The better heavy trade weights sold from $125-$140. Heavy weight lambs were $10-$15 cheaper at around 555-566c/kg. A few pens of extra heavy lambs sold from $177-$196.50. Merino lambs sold from $104-$135.
Mutton quality was good. Mainly Merinos were yarded and they sold at fairly firm levels. Medium Merino ewes made $90-$114 and heavy cross bred ewes $113-$138. Heavy wethers averaged $123 or 423c/kg cwt.
Inverell trade lambs $7 cheaper
In the Inverell saleyards, the agents yarded 2918 lambs, 483 less than the last sale, and 1452 sheep, 52 more.
The NLRS said lamb yarding comprised very good quality trade weights and heavy lambs, with more heavy and extra heavy lines, mainly well-finished off crops. Competition was strong and trade weights sold firm to slightly cheaper for some pens. Heavy lambs met a firm market overall.
Trade weight lambs sold to processors averaged $115.10 to be $7 cheaper. The lighter heavy weight lambs reached $132, averaging $127.40, and were $5 cheaper, while extra heavy weights were back $12, returning $140.90 or 543c/kg cwt.
The sheep yarding had more heavy ewes and wethers, with several full wool lines. The market remained strong for all classes of mutton. Medium weight Merino ewes sold from $72-$81.60 and averaged $75.70, back $16, while Merino wethers were $8 cheaper on $86.40.
Bendigo’s best domestic kill lambs firm to dearer
In Victoria at the Bendigo saleyards on Monday, the agents yarded 10,019 lambs, 355 more than last week, and 5846 sheep, 1840 more.
The NLRS said lamb quality remained very plain overall, with a lot of small and mixed pen lots in the yarding as farmers cleaned out tail-end drafts of old season lambs. All the usual buyers attended, but not all operated fully, with the main export companies only offering limited support. Prices varied on quality and carcase finish.
Better finished slaughter lambs suiting the top domestic orders sold firm to a few dollars dearer, while secondary trade lambs and heavy export lambs were generally $2-$7 cheaper. The market reached a top of $185 for a pen of just four extra heavy export lambs. A more notable sale was 210 first-cross ewe lambs, estimated at about 27kg cwt, which sold at $175 to restockers.
Most of the domestic weight lambs were plainer types lacking finish and they sold from $102-$130 at varying carcass prices. Light weight kill lambs generally made from $69-$96. There was a reasonable selection of Merino lambs, although most were lighter weight types in plain score 1 and 2 condition. The smallest Merino lambs sold to restockers at $30-$68.60, while the general run to processors made from $78-$114, or around 510-530c/kg cwt. Odd pens of better covered trade weight Merino lambs sold to $135.
The lead pens of slaughter lambs suiting domestic orders sold from $136-$172 and averaged over 600c/kg, with select pens that ticked all the specifications for weight, skin and fat score making to 660c/kg cwt. Bidding for heavy lambs over 27kg cwt was subdued and export lambs averaged cheaper, with quality and limited numbers a factor.
The sheep yarding had all weights and grades, including odd pens of ewes with young lambs that sold to restockers. Prices varied from cheaper to dearer for an overall result similar last week. Not all export companies attended the mutton sale. Heavy crossbred ewes sold from $103-$134.60, with some of the younger-aged and sound lines selling to restockers. Longer wool Merino ewes sold to $122 and wethers to $120. The general run of medium weight sheep sold from $62-$81, with plain and light types from $32-$56.
Ballarat lambs $2-$10 cheaper
In the Ballarat saleyards on Tuesday, the agents yarded 11,019 lambs, 570 more than last week, and 4460 sheep, 258 more.
The NLRS said an average quality yarding was offered to the usual buyers, although not all operated fully.
The better presented domestic lambs sold similar to last week, while heavier lambs were $2-$5 easier, and the plainer trade weight lambs eased $5-$10 in places. Feeders and restockers paid from $95-$127 for lambs and from $60-$80 for lighter drafts. Light weight 1 and 2 score lambs sold from $72-$100.
Light trade 2 and 3 score lambs sold from $101-$140, and averaged around 600c/kg cwt. Trade weight 3 and 4 score lambs sold from $120-$151, with the heavier drafts making $130-$164, or 520-650c/kg cwt to average around 600c/kg. Heavy 3 and 4 score lambs sold from $148-$178, with a pen of extra heavy lambs making $188. Medium weight Merino lambs sold from $65-$96.
Sheep quality was better this week with not as many light lines. The best of the Merino wethers sold close to firm, with most other sheep easing $5-$10 and the lighter sheep being least-affected. Light weight 1 and 2 score sheep sold from $43-$76, with very light 1 scores making $15-$55. Medium weight 2 and 3 score sheep sold from $55-$97, or 300-410c/kg cwt with Merinos averaging around 375c/kg. Heavy 3 to 5 score sheep sold from $75-$129. Heavy Merino wethers sold from $101-$115 and medium weights made $71-$116, or an average of around 400c/kg cwt. Rams of all weights sold from $30-$90.
Dublin lamb prices ease
At the SA Livestock Exchange at Dublin on Tuesday, the agents yarded 12,290 lambs, 229 fewer than last week, and 1784 sheep, 430 more.
The NLRS said lambs sold to easing competition from the usual trade and processor buyers, minus one major processor. The quality of the offering deteriorated compared to last week and bidding was subdued. Feeder and restocker participation was limited.
More new seasons lambs were yarded, with the very light weights selling from $68-$75 and the light weights from $88-$105. The few light trade weights sold from $125-$142, or 616-641c/kg cwt. The few light weight old crossbreds sold by feeders for $66-$95, while light weight 3 score crossbreds sold firm to trade buyers at $105-$120, averaging 546c/kg. Light trade weights eased $4 to $105-$123, averaging 550c/kg. Heavy trade weights sold from $128-$146 and averaged 558c/kg. Heavy weights eased $4 to $150-$180, or 563-577c/kg. Light weight Merino lambs sold to restockers from $40-$58 and restockers paid $116 for longer wool wether lambs to shear.
Light weight lambs sold firm to processors at $90-$106, while trade weight 3 scores eased $3 and made from $110-$115. Heavy weights sold from $128-$141 to average around 501c/kg. \
The small, very mixed quality sheep yarding sold to easing processor competition from the usual processor buyers. Light weight Merino ewes eased $8 to $65-$79 and averaged 285c/kg cwt. Heavy weight 3 score ewes eased $17 to $70-$110 and averaged 291c/kg. Heavy weight wether prices eased substantially to $70-$112 to average 336c/kg. Heavy weight rams made $89-$118.
Naracoorte’s best trade lambs lift $4
At the Naracoorte saleyards on Tuesday, the agents yarded 1502 lambs, 615 fewer than last week, and 1539 sheep, 301 more.
The NLRS said lamb quality was very mixed, with only a few pens with decent weight and condition. Fewer trade and processor buyers attended, but all were active, while restocker activity was minimal. Prices tended to be easier across the whole market.
Light weight lambs mainly ranged from $58-$86 for Merinos, while crossbreds ranged from $65-$98. Lighter trade 2 and 3 score lambs ranged from $81-$115, back by $5-$7. Trade weight 3 score lambs ranged from $110-$140, to be firm to $4 better, at an average of 580c/kg cwt. Only a handful of heavy lambs were offered and these sold from $140-$152.
Lightweight 2 score ewes sold for $54-$70, to be $2 easier. Medium weight 2 and 3 score ewes made $70-$90, back at least $20, at around 350c/kg cwt. More heavy ewes were offered and sold from $85-$122, back $20. A small number of wethers made $90-$112 and rams mainly sold from $56-$90.
Muchea processing lambs $2-$6 cheaper
In WA at the Muchea saleyards on Tuesday, the agents yarded 4617 lambs, 1323 fewer than last week, and 2100 sheep, 1174 more.
The NLRS said lamb quality was mixed, with most lines either tail-end drafts, light and secondary trade weights. More Merinos were offered. Most buyers were present and there was more competition, particularly on the ewe categories.
Processing lambs sold mostly $2-$6 dearer, with store drafts mostly firm to marginally dearer. Light store lambs, mostly Merino, sold to restockers for $25-$68, to be marginally dearer. Light lambs sold to processors, feeders and restockers for $55-$96, with most around $5 dearer. Trade lambs sold from $85-$119, with most averaging close to 500c/kg cwt and $5 dearer. Heavy lambs sold from $115-$126, up to $7 dearer.
Ewe supplies were limited and prices lifted with additional competition on most categories. Light ewes sold close to firm at $40-$67. But 2 score ewes to processors were much dearer, making $67-$80, or 325c/kg cwt. Better conditioned and heavy weight ewes made $70-$110, also up substantially. The very heavy crossbred ewes sold to $110 and the best Merino drafts made to $98.50.
Restockers purchased young Merino ewes for $55-$80 made mature drafts made $55-$65. Wether prices were dearer on improved quality. Export weight drafts made $80-$114 to live exporters, processors and feeders, with the dearest wethers going to a feeder buyer having a skin worth more than $20. Lighter and store wethers also lifted slightly with most making from $67-$90. Ram lambs sold to $92 and with young rams went to live export and feeders at $55-$88. Old rams sold to processors for $30-$70.
Sources: MLA, NLRS, AuctionsPlus.