Lamb and sheep supply hit peak levels for the year last week and as a result prices cooled a little, especially in NSW, which saw the biggest lift in supply. Still, it has been a record year for sheep prices in general, with the Eastern States Trade Lamb Indicator reflecting the overall strength in the market.

East coast lamb yardings lifted 19.4% last week to see 286,599 head yarded. Last time there were more lambs sent to the yards was back in December 2018. The biggest lifts on the week prior came from NSW which almost doubled, up 43% and Victoria, up 16%, whilst South Australia yardings fell by 24%.

Sheep throughput also increased significantly last week to 103,465 head on the east coast, 20% more yarded than the week prior. Last time there were over 100,000 sheep yarded on the east coast was around the same time last year. The biggest lift came again from NSW, up 44% on the week prior to see 44,505 sheep yarded, while VIC didn’t budge on the week prior, yarding 50,000 sheep again.

Lamb slaughter increased by 2.2% week on week, with 348,402 lambs sent for processing, while 6% less sheep were slaughtered. Slaughter rates have been mostly tracking below seasonal averages for the past two years (figure 1).

The Eastern States Trade Lamb Indicator rose 1¢ over the week to 854¢/kg cwt. In the West, the Western Australian Trade Lamb Indicator stayed put at 774¢/kg cwt.

There were mixed results across the categories and states, perhaps as a reaction to the increased supply. Prices dropped in NSW with all NLRS indicators falling bar the Merino Lamb indicator which rose 6¢, while mutton fell by 60¢. In Victoria, Merino lambs were the stand out, lifting 17¢ while mutton also dropped, by 25¢.

 The National Mutton Indicator dropped 36¢ on last week and is now at 598¢/kg cwt, still 26¢ higher than the same time last year.

The National Restocker Lamb Indicator lifted by 54¢ on last week and is now sitting at 910¢/kg cwt

The year ahead….

 It’s been a pretty solid year for sheep & lamb prices, while not breaking as many records as the cattle market, it’s held its own – as you can see in Figure 2 the ESTLI in 2021 has been tracking higher than it’s ever been. With strong export demand and good seasonal conditions on the horizon, we should see more of the same to kick start 2022.

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Data sources: MLA, NLRS, Mecardo

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