Autumn’s arrival brings a changed outlook

Sheep muster in outback Queensland near Charleville.

La Niña is fading fast and the Autumn rainfall outlook from the Bureau of Meteorology is looking very different from what we’ve seen over the past 36 months. Year-to-date lamb & sheep supply is tracking higher than 2022 and five-year average levels. A drier outlook may see stock turned off earlier.

The Eastern States Trade Lamb Indicator  (ESTLI) dropped 13¢ over the week to settle at 727¢/kg cwt. This is 88¢ (-11%) lower than the same time last year. The Western Australian Trade Lamb Indicator (WATLI) continued the downward trend, finishing at 560¢kg/cwt, a new low since November. This is 253¢ or (-31%) below this time last year.

There was little movement in the Restocker Lamb Indicator this week. 31% of restocker lamb throughput came through Central Victoria Livestock Exchange (CVLX) Ballarat where total lamb and sheep yardings were stronger than the week prior. Merino lambs lost 54¢ over the week, with the National Indicator ending the week at 598¢/kg cwt, 136¢ (-18%) lower year-on-year.

Finished lamb prices remain within the trading range we’ve seen since the start of 2023. The National Heavy Lamb Indicator moved 12¢ lower over the week to 785¢/kg cwt. The heavy lamb head count was almost 10,000 head higher than at the same time last week, so it looks as though stronger supply was the driver of the slightly softer prices.

Despite a lift in saleyard throughput, mutton prices improved, with the National Mutton Indicator gaining 15¢ to 345¢/kg cwt.

Total east coast slaughter of lamb and mutton lifted 5% in the week ending the 24th of February, compared to the week prior. Sheep slaughter remained strong, with a 2% lift week-on-week. East coast sheep slaughter was 47% higher than the same time last year, while lamb slaughter was similar to the same week in 2022.

The early saleyard throughput reports are already showing stronger supply in Vic, NSW, and WA this week. Last week lamb yardings nationally had dropped by around 21,000 head to 155,000 head. At the time of writing, lamb yardings this week are reported at over 185,000 head. It was a similar story with sheep supply, with saleyard throughput this week bouncing back to over 105,000 head.

The week ahead….

The Bureau of Meteorology’s (BOM) Autumn outlook has taken a turn for the worse. With the exception of the southeast coastline and southern & eastern Tasmania, the BOM is forecasting that below-median rainfall is likely to very likely (60% to greater than 80% chance) for most of Australia from March to May (Figure 2). With large parts of NSW, north & east Victoria, and southwest WA receiving below-average rainfall in February, drying paddocks is likely to encourage turnoff. 

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Data sources: BOM, MLA, Mecardo

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