Merino sheep in yards walking through gate

Comparing the lamb and mutton markets this week it’s clear to see who came off worse. Mutton prices tanked this week, pushing beyond the recent low hit in December, to currently sit at the lowest level in over six years. It wasn’t all doom and gloom this week though with lamb prices continuing to improve.

The National Mutton Indicator (NMI) ended Thursday at 308¢/kg cwt, after a sizeable 80¢ drop week on week. That’s 46% below the same time last year. NSW was the major driver, with NSW mutton this week at 291¢/kg cwt. While not the cheapest in the country, with WA Mutton at 237¢ this week, it is almost a 60¢ discount to mutton in Victoria.

 

The Eastern States Trade Lamb Indicator (ESTLI) gained 22¢ this week, to settle at 735¢/kg cwt. This is 103¢ or 12% below the same week in 2022.  Demand for heavy lambs continued the rally in prices this week, with the National indicator up another 10¢ to 794¢/kg cwt (-6% YOY).

 

Restocker lamb prices in Vic have held steady since the close of 2022, gaining 5¢ this week as supply ramps up. However, in both NSW and SA, restocker lamb values have improved and driven the national restocker lamb indicator 37¢ higher over the week to end at 696¢/kg cwt. 

 

Early saleyard lamb throughput figures are already showing a lift in lamb yardings this week compared to last. For the week ending the 13th of January 187,940, lambs were yarded in the east and over 210,000 were yarded this week.

 

This week east coast sheep throughput was over 85,000 head, which isn’t unusual for this time of year historically. The slaughter figures however point to supply overwhelming demand. Last week 114,682 sheep were processed in the east with an additional 30,000 in WA. For the east, this volume is 5% higher than five-year average levels, and nearly double the number of sheep processed at this time in 2022.

The week ahead….

With the discount of mutton to lamb now exceeding the normal range we should have found the floor on mutton values unless lamb prices head lower. Limited availability of good quality trade and heavy lambs should facilitate competition in the market for these types in the weeks ahead.

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Data sources: Mecardo; Meat & Livestock Australia

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