NSW Cooma Rural Cooma Sheep

The positivity in the sheep and lamb market has continued to pick up this week, yet to be slowed by the upcoming festive season break in trading. Rising prices were also unhindered by the significant jump in throughput this week, as producers took the opportunity to capitalise on improved sentiment and get stock off before potentially putting their feet up for a few days at the end of the year.

The Eastern States Trade Lamb Indicator has jumped 70¢/kg this week, to sit at the much more palatable figure of 600¢/kg. This is now just 17% lower than this time last year, which is much closer than it has been trading, but still well below the long-term averages. You will see from the chart that this sort of uptick in the ESTLI is quite unusual for this time of year, with a rise more commonly coming early in the new year. New season lambs sold to the trade made up to $227 at Hamilton in western Victoria, equating to 630c-730¢/kg, with 40% of the ESTLI-eligible lambs going through this yarding.

Nationally, trade lambs averaged 594¢/kg, with the handful of lambs sold through the yards in the west averaging just 521¢/kg in comparison. Heavy lambs actually saw the biggest rise for the week, with reports that processors were having to lift their sights to obtain the right product. Apart from Merino lambs, the national heavy indicator had the lowest throughput this week, backing this up, and averaged 626¢/kg, up 87¢/kg since this time last week, and 140¢/kg higher than a month ago. 

Not to be left behind, Mutton prices have also been on the up, albeit at a slightly slower rate, and having much more to make up. Reaching its highest level since the end of August, the National Mutton Indicator averaged 212¢/kg this week, a lift of 100¢/kg over the past four weeks. And as mentioned, while this is double what it was last month, it is still more than 40% lower than the five-year average. Wagga Wagga, NSW, had more than a quarter of the mutton run, and averaged nearly 232¢/kg, while in the south Ballarat, Vic, had the next highest volume of NMI eligible stock and still sold at just above 232¢/kg. WA and Tasmanian prices were still well below 100¢/kg.

After hitting its highest level for the year the week prior, boosted by Victoria having a record-high lamb kill, last week’s total sheep and lamb slaughter fell just slightly. Sheep slaughter was 35% stronger year-on-year, with lambs up 18%. This week lamb yardings increased 22% on last week to just about 286,000 head, the highest lamb yarding since December 2021, with sheep yardings up 17% to 126,350 head. 

Next week

Recent rainfall has lifted producer sentiment and sheep and lamb prices across the board, but it hasn’t slowed the slaughter or yarding numbers. And while restockers and feeders are back in the market, it would appear processors are driving the price increase as they now have to compete to get the right numbers of the right product into the works before the end of the year.

With two full operating weeks still to come before the public holidays start, this push should continue.

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Data sources: MLA, Mecardo

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