Short sales deliver steady lamb price but mutton on a roll

Short selling weeks tend to generate havoc in livestock markets, especially when it causes already tight supply to get tighter. But while much of the market was steady on price, tight supply has supported values this week, with improvements reported in restocker lamb and firing mutton prices.

The slide in the Eastern States Trade Lamb Indicator (ESTLI) came to a halt this week. From last Wednesday (31st) the ESTLI improved 1¢ to 842¢/kg cwt which is 7% under the same time last year. In the West, the market was stronger, with the Trade Lamb Indicator gaining 26¢ to 730¢/kg cwt.

Solid demand was found for Restocker lambs. In NSW the indicator lifted 38¢ to 1,022¢/kg cwt, a momentum which was also felt in Victoria, where the Restocker Indicator gained 30¢ to 930¢/kg cwt. Both these indicators are sitting on or close to year-ago levels.

It was steady as she goes for Heavy and Merino lambs, with both National Indicators unchanged over the period. The Mutton market is really on the move. The National Mutton Indicator gained another 17¢, continuing the rally that began in February to end this week at 677¢/kg cwt.

East coast lamb slaughter fell 22% to 268,424 head processed in the week before Easter. Sheep slaughter volumes were also 20% lighter than the week prior. While these pre-Easter slaughter volumes are low in historical comparison, they are higher than volumes recorded pre easter in 2020, when the uncertainty of Covid was at its peak.

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The week ahead….

The lamb market appears in pretty healthy shape and the mutton market has rarely looked better. Export volumes are tracking strong considering the supply on offer and prices remain very strong. There is a bit of rain on the horizon for eastern NSW & Vic, and coastal WA in the week ahead, which is unlikely to shake out further supply. Looking further ahead to Winter, the BOM is forecasting a 40-50% chance of above median rainfall for most of the east coast and sheep regions of WA.  

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Data sources: MLA, NLRS, Mecardo

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