Sheep in distance in green paddock

With the Christmas shutdown imminent, producers looked to cash in on the recent price rises, as they delivered record yardings for the last fully operational sale week of 2023. Demand also stayed strong, helping push prices higher for the 4th consecutive week.

Preliminary yardings data from MLA show this week set records across the majority of saleyards in the nation, as farmers act swiftly on the recent price rises before the year-end shutdown. The yards even “overflowed with animals” at Wagga according to the sales report. It was the lambs driving this increase up 16% to 342k the highest since this time in 2021. Sheep were down on last week by 27% to 129k.

The National Mutton Indicator (NMI) was the only national indicator to not have an increase in price week on week, falling 22% to 164 c/kg. Wagga was a major contributing factor, as it made up 26% of the throughput, but averaged 20% lower than the NMI at 132 c/kg. The saleyard report suggested demand from buyers was sporadic and the upcoming abattoir closures for the year-end break had a significant impact on price.

The Eastern States Trade Lamb Indicator (ESTLI) had another strong week of price increases, up 47c/kg to 647 c/kg. The ESTLI is up 38% (177 c/kg) on this time last month, back to price levels not seen since early May this year. The top contributing yards all reported a large turnout from buyers, which saw increased competition which pushed the price up.

Despite the West Coast missing out on most of the rainfall that has fallen on the East Coast in the past month, the trade lamb market has held up. Trending in line with the ESTLI rally over the last few weeks. Prices for trade lambs in WA are up 48% (157 c/kg) from the lows in late October. This week saw the trend end with trade lambs in the west falling 6% (33 c/kg) to 488 c/kg, putting the west 24% behind the East coast prices.

Mutton in the West hasn’t had the same rally, with prices not recovering as they have in all other indicators. The Western Mutton Indicator remains at a 10-year low of 66 c/kg, 61% behind the East Coast mutton price as processors prioritise lambs in the lead-up to Christmas. 

Next week

A disrupted week with some saleyards not operating will see a reduction in total yardings and a more mixed market if some buyers are set with their requirements over the next few weeks. There is also some rain forecast for next week which should continue to support the improving market sentiment of farmers.

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Data sources: MLA, Mecardo

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