Flocks of young unshorn lambs seperated, in the sheep yards, from their parents, out the front of the shearing sheds waiting to be shorn, on a small family farm in rural Victoria, Australia

It was a good week before Good Friday as most indicators improved. With processors being very busy the last few weeks, the appetite for both heavy and light lambs appears resilient in a dearer market. Restocker lambs much like the rainfall in South-Eastern Australia was lower than hoped.

At the time of publishing, Light lambs improved 40¢ this week, to 561¢/kg cwt driven by lower throughput to the yards. Restockers further south did not get much of the forecast rainfall and they bid accordingly as the indicator for restocker lambs lost 45¢ to 485¢/kg cwt.

 

The improvement in light lamb prices despite restocker involvement indicates that processors are still keen to take advantage of current market conditions (elevated capacity and strong demand from export markets for lighter lambs).  Similarly, lower saleyard throughput saw an improvement in the National Heavy Lamb Indicator, which improved 26¢ to 659¢/kg cwt.  With so many light lambs exiting the system in the last 6 months, focus on securing heavier lambs will likely strengthen in the coming months.   

 

Lamb slaughter is raising the roof so to speak. Last week’s slaughter of lambs nationally eclipsed half a million head per the MLA NLRS.  driven by a 31% week-on-week increase in lambs slaughtered in Victoria (over 250K head).

 

This week on Mecardo, Jamie–Lee Oldfield investigated the PULSE update for the MLA/AWI Sheep Producer Intention Survey (read here).  The update found that falling prices had deterred producers from selling, with 2.2 million fewer lambs hitting the market than they had planned. Those lambs that were left are going to come at some point, with planned sales up 20% for January-June 2024 according to the survey.

 

It’s evident that these lambs are already on the way. Producers pre-empting the holiday interference of the next few weeks, appear to have made the decision to shift stock in the last few weeks.  National lamb slaughter for the last four reported weeks (1/03/2024 – 22/03/2024)  has averaged 26% higher per week than the 5-year average.   

Next week

As we approach June, the seasonal pattern for pricing typically heads in a cheaper direction. A return to the yarding volumes of the previous few weeks would exert some pressure on pricing in the short term.

The transition to winter will be much smoother with a bit of rainfall in the coming weeks. That should boost the confidence of those producers that intend to carry stock to heavier weights later in the year.

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Click on graph to expand

Data sources: MLA, Mecardo

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