Nutrien Ag Solutions sheep farm.

It was a pretty ordinary week in sheep and lamb markets. All indicators tanked, with lamb at levels not seen since the depths of the 2020 Covid closures. Mutton followed suit, and while slaughter has picked up, it’s not enough to cope with the last flush of old season lambs.

The quality of lambs appears to be normal for this time of year, in that it’s not much good.  The last drafts of old season lambs are hitting the market, with many seemingly booked direct, and saleyard demand stagnating.

The weekly stats table shows we are 12% and 15% down on last week for lamb and mutton respectively, and over 30% on this time last year. 

The late run of old lambs appears to be clashing with some maintenance closures of processors.   While there were more sheep and lambs killed in the week ending (figure 2), numbers were still 14% below then peaks seen in May and June.

The timing and magnitude of the price fall looks eerily similar to that of 2020.  Figure 2 shows a dramatic drop in late July in 2020, but this was driven by weakening export demand, with supply still very tight. 

This year it is supply overwhelming slaughter capacity, and it should be a short term impact.  Providing lamb and mutton export prices remain strong, processors should be making more money, and this should encourage increasing slaughter space.  Obviously this depends on labour and ability to ship product, both proving bottlenecks in the supply chain at the moment.

The week ahead….

New season lambs are just around the corner, and the old season flush should soon be over.  This should equate to a price bounce, and we can see even in 2020 it came relatively quickly.  It’s not time to adjust the budget for this year’s sales just yet.

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Data sources: MLA, Mecardo

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