PRICES for trade and heavy lambs in saleyards were generally firm mid-week and only dearer for quality lines as agents managed to lift supplies ahead of imminent widespread seasonal processor closures.
Domestic processors continued to pay over 700c/kg for the best well-finished trade and heavy lambs and strong southern exporter demand for light lambs lifted rates for lines under 18kg cwt.
Slightly lower rates paid for secondary trade lambs by domestic buyers and for heavy lambs by exporters in some centres dragged the National Livestock Reporting Service’s indicators down.
However, the current average indicator rates for all lamb categories are year-on-year 48-54c/kg up on 2015 levels at this time and the heavy lamb prices are continuing at the highest levels since 2011.
After Thursday’s saleyard sales, the Eastern States Daily Indicators for lamb were: restocker 606c/kg, up 6c/kg; Merino 590c/kg, down 4c; light 612c/kg, up 4c; trade 645c/kg, down 4c; heavy 656c/kg, down 4c. The national trade lamb indicator fell 5 cents to 644c/kg and the heavy indice lost 4 cents to 656c/kg.
The first turn-off of new season lambs has started in New South Wales. Some producers have marketed lines direct to supermarkets and on AuctionsPlus, and a small number of young lambs in the Carcoar saleyards on Wednesday, 20.1-22kg cwt with $8-$10 skins, made $150-$160 a head, or 693-714c/kg cwt.
Overall mutton values lost ground mid-week, with buyers being selective around quality and not all buyers operating fully in some centres. The ESDI for mutton on Thursday closed at 412c/kg, down 4 cents, and the national mutton indicator also finished 4 cents lower, on 411c/kg.
Carcoar’s heavy lambs up to 712c/kg and $200
In New South Wales at the Central Tablelands Livestock Exchange on Wednesday, the agents yarded 12,750 lambs, 5341 more than last week, and 2750 sheep, 1183 more.
The NLRS said lamb quality was more mixed, with some well-finished heavy and trade lambs, and plainer lines. Most lambs were trade weights, but here was a handy supply of heavy weights and plenty of stores. All the usual buyers operated in a mostly firm to slightly dearer market.
Light lambs sold firm to processors and averaged $120. Store lambs averaged $85. Medium and heavy trade weight lambs were firm to $2 better, averaging 640-670c/kg cwt. Most of the better heavy trade weights sold from $150-$165. Heavy weight lambs were firm and extra heavy weights were dearer, averaging 660-680c/kg, with a few pens selling from $175-$200.
Sheep quality varied. Medium Merino ewes sold at firm rates and averaged $101, or 425c/kg cwt. Heavy first cross ewes were $8 dearer and averaged $129, or 415c/kg. Medium wethers sold from $74-$94.
Cootamundra’s light lambs $5 cheaper
At the Cootamundra saleyards on Wednesday, the agents yarded 4252 lambs, 248 fewer than two weeks ago, and 3471 sheep, 1579 less.
The NLRS said lamb quality was plainer due to the recent cold weather. There was a good number of light lambs, a limited supply of ideal well-finished trade weights and a small run of heavy weights. Not all the usual buyers operated in a quality driven market.
Light processing lambs sold $5 cheaper at $74-$104. Secondary trade lambs were firm on the secondary lines and dearer on the better finished runs. Medium and heavy trades sold from $123-$155. Heavy lambs were the big improver, gaining $12 to $146-$179. Carcase prices averaged between 640-660c/kg.
Sheep quality was mixed. Better mutton sold for similar prices to last week, while secondary lines were cheaper. Medium weights ranged from $76-$110 and heavy ewes $101-$138. Most averaged around 400c/kg.
Wagga’s trade lambs up to $9 dearer, heavies to $239.20
At the Wagga saleyards on Thursday, the agents yarded 39,000 lambs, 6150 more than last week, and 9000 sheep, 2950 more.
The NLRS said numbers lifted significantly after wet conditions last week hampered producers’ efforts to move stock. It was a good to mixed quality offering for winter.
There were increased supplies of secondary lambs and most sold to export buyers. All major export and domestic processors operated fully in the fluctuating market.
Prices for trade lambs fluctuated and the better finished pens were equal to slightly dearer. Heavy lambs lost some traction in places due to the lack of weight. Well-finished grain-fed trade lambs attracted the strongest bidding, while grass-finished pens at times struggled to attract major buyers due to a lack of fat cover.
Generally trade lambs sold firm to $9 dearer, with shorter-skinned lambs benefiting from strong supermarket competition to push over 700c/kg. Across the board, trade lambs averaged 665c/kg. Merino trade lambs sold to solid demand, regardless of skin length, from $115-$164. A southern export processor bought most of the lighter lambs. Light weight lambs sold to processors trended dearer at $93-$132. Restockers were again cautious, with only limited numbers bought at up to $126.60.
Heavy lambs were keenly sought by several domestic processors, helping cwt prices average 655c/kg. Extra heavy lambs lacked weight and finish in some agents’ runs. The better finished heavy pens sold from $173-$239.20, averaging 645c/kg.
The mixed quality offering of sheep included all weights and grades. The market for heavy ewes lost its intensity as not all buyers operating fully. Sales averaged 423-435c/kg. Light and medium grades generally sold from 376-427c/kg.
Hamilton lambs sell to $202
In Victoria at the Hamilton saleyards on Wednesday, the agents yarded 6227 lambs, 317 more than last week, and 3402 sheep, 2202 less.
The NLRS said lamb quality was good to average with many showing less cover, although there were some very good trade weight lambs.
One less domestic and export buyer attended, and bidding from the usual processors was less urgent and more selective. Light, light trade and medium trade lambs lacking finish sold $2-$8 cheaper, but better quality medium and heavy trade weights sold $1-$4 dearer.
Processors paid from $72-$108 for light 2 score lambs, or an average of 586c/kg. Light trade lambs made $105-$125, averaging 620c/kg. Medium trade 3 and 4 scores sold from $121-$151, averaging 640c/kg. Heavy trade weights sold from $151-$169 at 613-690c/kg, averaging 650c/kg. Extra heavy lambs sold from $172-$202.
Sheep quality was mixed, with some good quality lines of Merino wethers and crossbred ewes. Prices were overall firm to slightly dearer, with light and medium weights improving the most and heavy mutton rates back in places. Restocker activity was minimal with one agent paying $80-$85 for 445 young Merino wethers.
Very light 1 score sheep sold for $45 and light 1-2 score lines made $65-$77. Medium weight 2 and 3 score sheep sold from $82-$102. Merino mutton averaged 420c/kg and heavy crossbred sheep made $92-$125, averaging 370c/kg. Merino 2 score wethers sold from $76-$99 and lines with longer wool made $127-$134, averaging 410-420c/kg. Rams of all breeds sold significantly dearer at $60-$139.
Horsham Merino lambs sell to $141
At the Horsham saleyards on Wednesday, the agents yarded 7916 lambs, 3272 more than last week, and 1418 sheep, 119 more.
The NLRS said lamb quality was average to good, the usual buyers operated strongly and lambs generally sold firm to $5 up on last week.
Heavy lambs reached $201 and the heavier trade weight lambs sold from $155-$178, averaging around 670c/kg. The good supply of Merino lambs, mostly finished on grain, sold generally dearer, with heavier lines making to $141. The medium weights sold from $106-$142 and averaged 580-600c/kg c/kg and lighter lots made $75-$106. Restocking activity was limited to a few pens of lambs at $77-$97.
Keen competition for sheep lifted prices by $5 and more in places. Heavy crossbred ewes sold to $138.50. Light weight 2 score lambs made $103-$116. Light trade 2 and 3 score lambs sold from $114-$140 and averaged around 660c/kg. Medium weight 3 and 4 score lambs sold from $133-$156.50. Heavier drafts made $155-$178, or 620-690c/kg, averaging around 670c/kg. Heavy 3 and 4 score lambs sold from $169-$201. Heavy hoggets sold to $140.
Light weight 1 and 2 score sheep sold from $68-$100.50. Medium weight 2 and 3 score sheep made $80-$140, or 380-460c/kg. Merino mutton averaged around 430c/kg. Heavy crossbred sheep sold from $108-$138.50, with heavy Merino ewes selling from $101.50-$132. Heavy Merino wethers sold to $136 and the medium weights made to $110.
Ouyen lambs sell to $170
At the Ouyen saleyards on Thursday, the agents yarded 6652 lambs and 1655 sheep.
The agents quoted export lambs selling firm to slightly easier and trade lambs $3-$6 dearer than at the last sale two weeks ago.
Crossbred export lambs sold from $156-$215, or 600-630c/kg, trade weights made $116-$170, or 610-700c/kg, and store lambs sold for $69-$124, or 650-740c/kg.
Light Merino lambs made $116-$131, or 580-620c/kg, and heavy lines sold from $134-$160.20, or 560-600c/kg.
Sheep sold prices were up $5 to $8 on last sale. Light sheep sold from $55.60-$108, or 420-450c/kg, and heavy lines made $115-$151.60, or 330-410c/kg.
Mt Gambier lambs to $219
In South Australia at the Mt Gambier saleyards on Wednesday, the agents yarded 1589 lambs and 139 sheep.
The NLRS said a small field of trade and processor buyers were active and bid strongly on the generally good quality offering.
Lamb prices improved, with extra heavy lambs making to $219. Light weight lambs sold to $101 and the light trade 2 and 3 score types made to $116. Trade weight 3 score lambs sold from $117-$146 at an average of 620c/kg. Most of the yarding was heavy 4 score lambs that made $146-$176, with the extra heavy types selling from $185-$219.
Hoggets made $110-$140. Light weight ewes sold to $56 and heavier lines made $118-$145.
Katanning trade lambs sell to $105
In Western Australia at the Katanning saleyards on Wednesday, the agents yarded 3151 lambs, 3207 fewer than last week and 2000 sheep, 2000 less.
The NLRS said it was a mixed quality yarding, dominated by lambs. Heavy crossbred lambs sold to $117 and light lines made $40-$80. Trade weight lambs sold from $91-$105. Feeders paid $58 for light crossbred lambs and up to $114 for better quality lines. Light Merino store lambs sold from $56 up to $99 for heavier better framed types. Lambs suitable for air freight sold from $70-$100.
Sheep supply was limited. Light ewes with a full fleece made $55-$76 with a full fleece and others sold to slaughter for $55-$85. Prime 3 score heavy sheep sold from $75-$109. Young Merino red tag ewes sold from $52-$75, depending on weight.
Young wethers made $55-$100 with processors, depending on weight. Feeder buyers paid $55-$98, depending on frame and quality, and live export lines made $95-$116. Ram lambs sold for $40-$110 to processors and feeders. Older rams made $10-$65.
Warwick lambs sell to $170
At the Warwick saleyards on Wednesday, the agents yarded 1268 lambs and hoggets, and 253 sheep.
Agents quoted prices for the slightly smaller yarding of sheep and lambs as firm on last week’s rates. The top-priced lambs sold for $170 for G.N. and C.E. O’Leary of Clifton.
Crossbred lambs 51-55kg lwt sold from $148-$171, 46-50kg lambs made $144-$160, 41-45kg lines sold from $136-$155 and 35-40kg lambs made $122-$143.
Shorn crossbred hoggets, 65kg lwt, sold to $120. Trade wethers with $6 skins made to $92, or 330c/kg, and light wethers with $6 skins made to $75, or 300c/kg.
Heavy crossbred ewes with $8 skins sold to $113, or 325c/kg, and light ewes with $6 skins made to $69, or 295c/kg.
Sources: MLA, NLRS, AuctionsPlus.