Sheep walking through a gate

We’ve heard plenty of talk about the rise and rise of the restocker cattle price, as it's close to doubled in the past 12 months. Plenty of grass in the paddocks and a shortage of finished cattle supply are ensuring traders and feeders see good potential for profit in the restocker beef equation. But what about lambs?

The restocker lamb indicators are performing well above all other categories and opened the week with a sharp rise yesterday. The Eastern States figure was 761¢/kg, a jump of 74¢/kg on the previous indicator. It trades at a 59¢/kg discount to the same time last year, but that is in comparison to the other lamb categories which are sitting between 92¢/kg and 197¢/kg lower year-on-year.

Nationally, the story is the same, with the restocker lamb price lifting 66¢/kg in the past week, and just 23¢/kg below last year. Historically, it is well above the mark for the same time period. When compared to the National Trade Lamb Indicator, restockers are priced 43¢/kg higher this week.

Support for restocker prices is coming from both supply and demand. Most saleyard reports across NSW last week reported an increase in new season lambs, with a majority described as “well finished”. This, teamed with a 40,000 head drop in lamb yardings last week, indicates restocker weight lambs could be getting hard to find, with plentiful grass reserves pushing both suckers and old lambs to their respective finishing weights earlier than usual.

The demand side is also linked to a return to higher rainfall across much of the east, and livestock traders looking for an affordable option to graze pastures and crops. Restocker ewe lambs are also a commodity to contemplate as the flock moves towards rebuilding and record-high mature ewe prices proving cost prohibitive for some. The growth in lamb feedlotting could also be a factor, with feedgrain price points improving for the buyer thanks to predictions for a much-improved harvest in Victoria and NSW this year.

What does it mean?

The trade lamb price generally heads south for the next few months, meaning those buying restockers at a price premium now will be hoping the market has at least returned to current prices come summer when their feed starts to dry off. Without wanting to sound like a broken record, this will be mainly be dependent on the Covid-19 impact on slaughter and export markets.

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Key Points

  • Restocker lamb prices best performers as they remain close to year-ago-levels.
  • Traders could look to lamb as grass keeps growing in the east.
  • Light lambs in lower supply as producers bank on fattening on-farm.

Click on graph to expand

Click on graph to expand

Data sources: MLA, Mecardo


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