There was little joy in the sheep and lamb market this week as most prices continued to slide south. The main exception was restocker lambs, which actually bounced nearly 80¢/kg higher for the week, mainly due to about 6200 less going through the yards. This was despite total lamb yardings lifting week-on-week by just shy of 10,000 lambs.

NSW yards are still seeing a majority of the throughput, with Wagga Wagga, Forbes and Dubbo making up more than half of the total 222,784 head yarded for the week. Total yardings were 15 per cent higher than the five-year average for the week.

While the slaughter report can’t be directly compared as it is a week delayed, nearly 410,000 lambs were processed last week. This was about 10,000 more lambs than the five-year average, the highest lamb slaughter volume for that week for at least a decade, and the biggest number of any week since April 2019. Sheep slaughter increased week-on-week and again was 15% above the average, however still sitting below June and July weekly volumes for this year.

The Eastern States Trade Lamb Indicator finished the week at 464.56¢/kg/cwt. This was down 28¢/kg for the week and well below both the five and 10-year-average. We have to go back to 2012 to see prices finished the week lower for the same time of year. Only 400 lambs contributed to WA’s trade lamb price, which was just shy of 400¢/kg/cwt today, a rise of 30¢/kg/cwt for the week, but still meaning the price has lost 95¢/kg in the past month.

New season lambs were still present in NSW yards but haven’t yet started to increase in numbers. Despite having the biggest total sheep and lamb yarding for the week at Wagga, Forbes still had a higher percentage of trade lamb indicator eligible stock, operating at the average price. Ballarat had the largest number in Victoria and set the price for the state at 479¢/kg/cwt, 15¢/kg above the ESTLI.

In other prices, heavy lambs lost a further 15¢/kg for the week, with Merino lambs experiencing the largest fall of more than 26¢/kg for the week, to close at 327¢/kg/cwt, despite also having the biggest drop in eligible stock. Mutton supply increased week-on-week once again, and the price fell further to 241¢/kg/cwt. We haven’t seen a lower mutton price since the start of 2014, and it is less than half the five-year average. MLA noted last week that there is no longer any payment for cross-bred sheep skins, while Merino sheep skins have fallen 500c/skin since the start of the year. Lamb skins are attracting 81c/skin, compared to 608¢/kg in January.

Next week

Historically, sheep and lamb prices tend to hold firm for the next few months, boosted by quality and spring demand. With the fact that year-to-date Australian sheepmeat exports are at record highs, it looks like processors seem to be clearing the increased supply.

There are rumblings of US sheep producers wanting to limit Australian imports, which is something to watch but won’t impact short-term volumes you wouldn’t have thought. Domestic supply appears to be continuing to climb, which won’t help prices.

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Data sources: MLA, Mecardo

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