Nutrien Ag Solutions farm with sheep in a field grazing.

Disrupted working weeks have led to a mixed market. Slaughter numbers in these short weeks have been relatively strong but saleyard throughput continues to be tight. Heavy lambs moved to a recent low while mutton prices have thankfully found an upward trend and pushed over the 400¢ barrier.

There wasn’t a whole lot of price movement for the trade lamb market. The Eastern States Trade Lamb Indicator (ESTLI) dropped 4¢ from the 5th of April, to settle at 679¢/kg cwt yesterday. In the West, the trade lamb indicator lifted 24¢ over the same period, ending this week at 540¢/kg cwt.

The National Heavy Lamb indicator slid 18¢ to 709¢/kg cwt, the lowest it’s been since September last year. Restocker lamb prices were volatile, but overall gained 29¢ (+5%), largely driven by strong competition for the available stock in the latter half of the week in NSW. The reduced supply of Merino lambs drove prices upwards. The National Merino Lamb Indicator lifted 56¢ over the week to end at 584¢.

For those with sheep to sell, there’s good news in that prices have continued to climb from their low base. The National Mutton Indicator lifted 33¢ this week to settle at 405¢/kg cwt. This is the highest the mutton price has been since the first week of January when the market started tanking.

For the week ending the 7th of April, one day short of a full working week due to the Easter break meant limited space on the kill floor. The number of lambs processed in the east dropped 9% (~30K head) compared to the week prior while sheep took priority, increasing 4% week on week.

Early saleyard throughput reports showed lamb numbers lifted from a low of 92k last week to over 130k head this week nationally.

The week ahead….

Next week will be a full sales week, sandwiched in the middle of short weeks due to the April public holidays. It will be interesting to watch whether buyers can still see the value in mutton prices heading over 400¢.  Unless we see sheep numbers tighten up significantly in winter, further upside will be less likely.

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Data sources: MLA, BOM, Mecardo

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