Confidence stripped from the lamb market

Group of black head sheep in paddock

There aren’t a lot of positives to take from the lamb and sheep market results this week. Unless of course, you were looking to buy. Prices fell heavily across categories, with mixed quality resulting in “erratic” movements.

The Eastern States Trade Lamb Indicator (ESTLI) dropped 80¢ (14%) over the week, ending at 507¢/kg cwt. Dynamics were similar in the West with a 77¢ drop in the WA Trade Lamb Indicator resulting in an average price of 394¢/kg cwt.

Heavy lambs also trended lower but not to the same degree as trade lambs. The National Heavy Lamb Indicator dropped 8% or 50¢ over the week to 602¢/kg cwt. NSW was the major driver, with heavy lamb prices falling 67¢ to 582¢. Light lambs lost 61¢ to end the week at 413¢/kg cwt.

The store lamb market didn’t fare any better. The National Restocker Lamb indicator hit a new low of 395¢/kg cwt after dropping 86¢ (-18%) over the week. 2013 was the last time the Restocker Indicator was at these levels. The spread between restocker lambs in Victoria and NSW is wide, with Victorian pricing restockers at 477¢ this week compared to 395¢ in NSW.

Sheep throughput at saleyards remains very volatile, and the same could be said for price. The National Mutton Indicator fell 38¢ to 365¢/kg cwt. Last week east coast sheep yardings lifted 67% week on week. The yarding of almost 72,000 head was 21% stronger than the five-year average levels. 176,248 lambs were yarded in the east, which was just 1% lower than the five-year average.

Over 520,000 lambs and sheep were processed in the east for each of the last two reported weeks. In 2018 we saw similar levels of slaughter at this point in the season, but the difference was, that 2018 was a time of heavy flock liquidation. Weekly processing rates of closer to 424,000 head are what we have normally seen at this time of year.

Next week

There is rain on the forecast for the week ahead but unfortunately in the east at least it is not in the places that need it the most. Southwest and Great Southern regions of WA had a drink this week and the BOM forecast shows a chance of more to come. 

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Data sources: MLA, Mecardo

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