Sheep running out of a shed

The divide between old and new season lambs remains a prominent feature of the market. This week old season lambs presented in mixed quality which caused wide variation in price, while new season offerings are in good condition and attracting stronger bidding competition. Lamb and mutton price indicators all sprung higher over the week.

The Eastern States Trade Lamb Indicator (ESTLI) lifted 53¢ over the week, to 727¢/kg cwt. Despite the big jump in price, it didn’t make up for the significant fall of the week prior. In the West, trade lambs inched just 4¢ higher over the week to 538¢. While trade lambs in WA are fetching stronger prices than last month, we are still looking at prices more than 200¢ cheaper than this time last year.

Light lambs gained momentum over the week with the national indicator picking up 60¢ from last week to sit at 589¢/kg cwt. Similarly Merino lambs improved 61¢ to 593¢/kg cwt. Bigger yardings of heavy lambs also sold into stronger competition with the National Heavy Lamb Indicator lifting 39¢ to 746¢/kg cwt. The average heavy lamb price topped in Deniliquin yards at 803¢.

Much like the lamb market, price volatility has consumed mutton prices over the last month. This week the National Mutton Indicator (NMI)gained 61¢ to sit at 521¢/kg cwt. Both the ESTLI and NMI are sitting 22% below the same time last year.

Lamb slaughter remained very strong last week with 360,032 head processed. In the last four reported weeks we’ve seen 10% more lambs processed than the same time last year. Sheep slaughter rates are continuing to rise from the winter low. Last week the total number of sheep processed jumped 40% but remains well below the seasonal average.

While slaughter numbers for lambs are holding strong, saleyard throughput tapered off last week with wet conditions in many parts of the east and the softer market impacting confidence. 

The week ahead….

On the surface saleyard prices look weak, however demand for new season lambs is proving strong. The low Aussie dollar is positive for demand from our export customers and will be a supporting factor for the finished lamb market through spring.

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Data sources: MLA, NLRS, Mecardo

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