Nutrien Ag Solutions sheep farm.

The market was buzzing this week, with stronger competition and lighter yardings driving prices significantly higher on all types of lambs and sheep. Some decent rainfall totals across large parts of the country have helped lift the mood of the market.

The Eastern States Trade Lamb Indicator (ESTLI) lifted to 715¢/kg cwt over the week, hitting the highest level since late January. The ESTLI is currently sitting 110¢ or 18% stronger year-on-year. In the West, trade lamb prices were steady this week, finishing at 531¢/kg cwt. However, all other types in WA improved strongly on the back of a lighter yarding and recent rain.

Tighter throughput of heavy lambs and very strong competition for export weight lambs drove prices higher as buyers were forced to compete for quality stock. The National Heavy Lamb Indicator gained 15¢ on the week to 712¢/kg cwt, which is 14% higher year-on-year.

The stronger market also extended to store lambs, despite a number of key southern yards reporting a distinct wintry quality about the lambs. Restocker and light lambs saw the biggest week-on-week prices improvement. Both National Indicators gained around 70¢ on last week, this is 37% higher year-on-year. Merino lamb prices also improved significantly, gaining 58¢ on the week to 555¢/kg cwt.

Mutton prices also improved across the board, again with quantity slipping but a notable eagerness present amongst buyers.  The National Mutton Indicator picked up an additional 45¢ on the week to hit 352¢/kg cwt which is the highest level in the last 12 months.

MLA’s preliminary yardings figure shows around 160 thousand lambs and 70 thousand sheep hit NLRS saleyards this week, which combined is an 18% drop in throughput week-on-week. While this is 2% above five-year average levels, saleyard throughput was 17% higher than the same time last year. And as far as slaughter rates go, processors are still finding plenty of stock to keep the chains full. For the week ending the 31st of May, just over 690 thousand sheep and lambs were processed which is well and truly as the upper limit that we’ve seen this year. An additional 100 thousand head (17%) was processed last week compared to the same week in 2023.

Next week

More rain is on the forecast over the weekend and into next week for WA, as well as Vic and Tasmania. We also have short sales week due to the Kings Birthday long weekend in all states except Queensland and Western Australia. Sheep and lamb numbers are likely to be down as a result.

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Data sources: MLA, Mecardo

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