Aerial drone photo of sheep in Winilippe Yards KondoolkaStation , SA by Stefanie Roeske

Rainfall in the east - whether it actually fell or is still forecast to come - continued to support sheep and lamb prices this week, with all categories on the rise. The west didn’t get the rain, or even the promise of it, so hasn’t yet witnessed any improved positivity in its market.

Restockers finally saw some price response to the changing sentiment this week, helped along by lower throughput, with about 12,000 fewer head eligible for the indicator. However, the 50,000 restocker lambs that were sold averaged 394¢/kg, an increase of 70¢/kg for the week. Nationally it’s the highest restockers have been pricewise since mid-July.

The remainder of the indicators, excluding heavy lambs, all lifted between 27¢/kg and 37¢/kg for the week, with national trade lambs picking up 30¢/kg, to sit just shy of 488¢/kg. The Eastern States Trade Lamb Indicator is currently nearly 4¢/kg higher, at 491.75¢/kg, but in comparison only picked up 22¢/kg for the week. Victorian yards are now well and truly dominating ESTLI throughput, with Hamilton and Ballarat having 26% and 22% of the eligible stock respectively. In NSW it was Wagga Wagga, Carcoar, and Dubbo that trended well above the average.

Heavy lambs have held relatively firm since the beginning of October and ended this week at 501¢/kg. Mutton is finally seeing some more consistent relief, lifting 28¢/kg to 153¢/kg this week, a rise of 50¢/kg for the month. This was boosted by Wagga Wagga, which had a quarter of all mutton indicator eligible sheep and traded at an average of 186¢/kg. Western Australia, on the other, continues to really struggle, with both yards averaging under 80¢/kg for mutton.

Combined sheep and lamb yardings were at their third highest level for the year this week, just short of 320,000 head. These levels have been fairly consistent all month, and it was 9% more sheep that made up the increase week-on-week. But as we can see from the table both categories are trending well above year-ago levels, with 61% more lambs in the yards this week than the same time last year.

Last week’s slaughter volume dropped more than 20,000 head for lambs but remains in record-high territory at 443,256. Sheep slaughter also fell by about 16,000 head but remains about 20,000 head higher year-on-year for the corresponding week. 

Next week

If the rain forecast to come across eastern Australia this next week eventuates, the upward momentum of the light and restocker lamb categories, along with potentially mutton, should continue. When it comes to heavy lambs, as long as slaughter can be maintained at its current rate through to Christmas, processors’ January contracts show there shouldn’t be any downward pressure on price as producers push to get lambs off before the holidays.

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Data sources: MLA,BOM, Mecardo

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