Sheep in paddock in NSW, photo by Adele SMith

Despite more rain falling this week across the nation, it wasn’t enough to continue the price rise for lamb. All lamb indicators took a fall this week, ending the price rally occurring since late last year. Mutton on the other hand continued to climb, a welcome relief after not experiencing the same degree of a price rally as its younger counterparts.

Yardings were up 9% (32k head) on the previous week as the lamb and sheep markets continued to gain momentum after the Christmas shutdown. Mutton drove the yarding increase with a 24% (22.4k head) increase on the week prior. Lamb rose a modest 4% (9.6k head), but to a level that is 36% above the five-year average for the 3rd week of January.

Heavy and trade lamb indicators took the biggest price hit week on week, both falling away from the 800c/kg benchmark they were on track for. The National Heavy Lamb Indicator fell by 9% (71c/kg) with yardings also down 7%. Wagga saw the largest yarding of heavy lambs, supplying 31% of the volume. The NLRS saleyard report talks of cautious buyer behaviour and not all exporters throwing their hand up. Trade lambs followed the same path with the indicator down 9%, although there was a more significant decrease in yardings, down 19% (12.3k head). Despite both categories seeing a decrease in supply it was not enough to prevent the correction.

Mutton saw a rise in both price and yardings. The National Mutton Indicator rose 10% (27 c/kg) on the previous week and has lifted 182% since the bottom of the market back in late October. There was plenty of mutton on offer as well with an increase in yardings of 18% (12.6k head) to a total of 82.3k head. Wagga had the largest contribution, where mutton sold 11% (31c/kg) higher than the national average.

In the West, trade lambs were flat week on week at 562 c/kg, despite a 69% increase in yardings. Muchea averaged 18c/kg above the state average, with the report talking of a crowded buying field with some coming from the East. Mutton in the west saw an improvement (up 23c/kg week on week) but a decrease in yardings of 34% to 4.4k head can’t be ruled out as the driver.

Slaughter levels are back following the shutdown over the Christmas/New Year break. Slaughter figures for last week were up 16% on the week prior and up 20% on the five-year average to a total of 595k head. This reflects the increase in demand from consumers, with one major retailer currently running a large promotion on lamb. 

Next week

Despite the shorter week with the Friday public holiday, the market will continue to search for its new level. Heavy rain on the east coast and the price decline may push some producers to cash in while the money is there. However, the unseasonal carpet of green, particularly in the southeast, and early lambs to slaughter tell us that finished lambs are going to be keenly sought after for some time.

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Data sources: MLA, Mecardo

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