Wide shot of sheep in a field

The lamb market lifted this week along with slaughter numbers, however yarding’s and sheep slaughter were down, while the NMI mutton indicator eased slightly.

After an influx of lambs to saleyards a fortnight ago, last week’s throughput seemed meagre in comparison. Only 177K lambs were yarded on the east coast, which was 28% fewer than the week prior, but still 11% above the same week last year. NSW yarding’s were lower than the five-year seasonal average, while both Victoria and South Australia had stronger shows, with the number of head yarded 18% and 32% higher than their respective seasonal averages.

East coast sheep yarding’s fell 9% on the week, but were just 10% below the seasonal average. We were getting used to seeing weekly sheep yarding’s sitting 40-50% below average volumes, so the current levels are a modest improvement.

Lamb slaughter is still tracking below the normal range. For the week ending the 12th of January 5% more lambs were processed than the week prior.

Prices lifted with the ESTLI gaining 33 cents or 2.7%, to now sit just 4% below year ago levels. The National Mutton Indicator eased by 9 cents; however, it also sits just 4% shy of last year’s corresponding level.

This week on Mecardo, Angus Brown noted that December lamb and sheep slaughter figures point towards the flock rebuild gaining pace.  While slaughter numbers were higher than the June and September quarters, the fact that they were well back on last year suggests more stock are being kept at home. In fact, annual lamb and sheep slaughter was at its lowest level since 2011, this lower slaughter suggests the flock rebuild started last year, and should result in higher supply later in 2021.

The week ahead….

This week’s ESTLI price lift is likely to encourage more lambs to market; that’s if the lambs are actually out in the paddock. This will be a good indication of likely supply for the remainder of this season, as with the season coming to a belated close in many areas, it is reasonable to expect that any producers with lambs at home will be seriously considering coming to market.

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Data sources: MLA, NLRS, Mecardo

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