Weight is what is wanted in the sheep and lamb market at the moment, as processors drive demand and restockers stay well away from the market. Prices remained pretty much exactly where they were for the week, with yardings down very slightly, as the market remained in a bit of a stalemate waiting for rain.

Many of the prime sale reports from the past week quote the heavy export market as attracting the strongest bidding. This included at Wagga Wagga, where 48,000 lambs were yarded, including more than 17,000 head of new season lambs. Nationally, the heavy lamb indicator rose by 5¢/kg for the week, to finish at 455¢/kg, with nearly half of the indicator throughput going through Wagga Wagga. At $3/head below year-ago levels, well-finished lambs over 26kg (carcass) continue to hold up the best in a challenging market.

Onto trade lambs, and in the eastern states the price barely budged, losing just 1¢/kg for the week to sit at 437¢/kg. A majority of the throughput came from NSW, where the price traded 2¢/kg above the eastern average, while the 10,500 lambs (of about 46,000 that went through the ESTLI) that were sold in Victoria tracked well below, at 431¢/kg. Both in the east and nationally, trade lamb prices are now trending at prices not seen since the beginning of 2014, similar to mutton they are at 10-year-lows.

Mutton managed to hold above the 100¢ mark, but only just, finishing the week at 104¢/kg, a 78% decline year-on-year. To put this into further perspective, according to Meat and Livestock Australia the average per-head price for mutton this time last year was $124, and it is now at $30. And of course, numbers traditionally only increase as we move further into spring. As with lambs, prime sale reports have heavy mutton in higher demand.

Yardings were lower week-on-week for both lambs and sheep, and total yardings were back year-on-year, and below the five-year-average; once again showing producers are trying to hold off. Slaughter, (a week delayed) held firm, and was 10% and 44% higher year-on-year for lambs and sheep respectively.

Next week

A week of high temperatures for spring in many areas will have producers thinking more seriously about their contingency plans for the forecast dry, and despite returns being at their lowest for the decade, many won’t have many alternative options than turning off the stock now – meaning there will likely be minimal supply relief on prices.

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Data sources: MLA, Mecardo

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