Disruption ahead so supply shuffles forward

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Sheep producers are making way for the winter crop and getting ahead of the upcoming public holiday sales disruption. Close to 250,000 lambs flooded to saleyards across the country this week which was a huge jump of almost an extra 100k on the previous week.

Anzac Day will be commemorated on the 25th of April which this year falls on a Thursday. The National holiday will take a number of sales off the roster, including the major market of Wagga. It’s also a disruption for southern Mallee numbers by taking out many fortnightly cyclical markets including Ouyen and Swan Hill.

Even with the early break that occurred in the first week of April, additional numbers have already started to flood to centres in preparation. As a result, we expect that the next two weeks will see an influx of numbers. To compensate this week, Wagga was loaded up with 45,000 lambs and 19,000 sheep, knowing full well that there would be no market in a fortnight. Despite the rain event and confidence in the season ahead, numbers will be strong right through April which will put a lid on price improvements until supply clears out into Winter.

The Eastern States Trade Lamb Indicator (ESTLI) slipped 3¢ over the week to settle at 646¢/kg cwt. This is 8% or 58¢ lower than the same time last year. In WA, the lamb market played catchup following the upward momentum in the east last week. WA trade lamb prices rallied 62¢ in saleyards to 504¢/kg cwt.

Heavy lamb prices have also levelled off again, this week sliding 9¢ to 655¢/kg cwt with competition noted as inconsistent and prices fluctuating from reports at key yards. Restocker lambs also came under supply pressure after the rain-driven rally in the prior week. The National Restocker Lamb Indicator dropped 50¢ to 553¢/kg cwt which is 66¢ under year-ago levels.

The volatility in the mutton market remains a significant challenge. This week mutton prices dropped 12¢ to 275¢/kg cwt which in the context of the volatility experienced so far this year is relatively steady. The National Mutton Indicator is 128¢ lower year on year.

Next week

Forward pricing being offered for May, June and July are anywhere between $7.20 and $7.80/kg cwt under the expectation of a traditional tightening of supply into winter. Even with the price improvements in the last few weeks, it’s still well ahead of where the physical market sits today. Considering the May to July period last year fetched average trade lamb prices at $5.70, the prices that can be guaranteed for this winter are a real positive.

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Data sources: MLA, BOM, Mecardo

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