Slim saleyard pickings send prices higher


Tighter saleyard throughput was enough to see the lamb and sheep market finally lift. With store lamb prices at some of the lowest levels in a decade, it’s easy to see why producers are dissatisfied enough to stay away from selling.

The Eastern States Trade Lamb Indicator (ESTLI) gained 32¢ or 6% this week to end at 556¢/kg cwt. Most of the saleyard throughput flowed into Wagga yards, where processors were “eager to secure numbers” according to NLRS reports. Trade lamb prices also lifted in WA, with the WA indicator up 24¢ to 497¢/kg cwt, 36¢ higher than four weeks ago.

Heavy lambs also moved higher, with the National indicator bouncing 24¢ to 555¢/kg cwt. NSW and SA were the main drivers of the price improvement.

Light lambs picked up 55¢ to end the week at 452¢/kg cwt. Light lamb supply was strongest at CVLX Ballarat, with Forbes not far behind.

Restocker lambs saw a similar turnaround, improving 55¢ on the week as well to settle at 409¢/kg cwt. Restocker lambs ended this week dearer in all states except WA, and it was Victoria that saw the largest price improvement of 89¢.

The National Mutton Indicator lifted 15¢ across the week to 332¢/kg cwt. Early saleyard throughput reports for this week suggest that sheep supply pulled back further this week, with just over 30K head yarded nationally, compared to 48K the week prior and 73K a fortnight ago.

Lamb numbers were also well back this week, with the early report showing 121k in saleyards nationally. This is down from 138K last week and well below the 170K per week nationally which is the five-year average for this time of year. This is likely a factor of both the wet weather and producers turned off by the price levels.

437K lambs were processed in the last week of June, just shy of the high in the final week of May. While National Sheep slaughter lifted slightly on the week prior, with almost 145K head processed this is about 135K lower than the record high levels we’ve seen this year but is almost three times the number of sheep processed at this time last year.

Next week

It was at this time last year when supply really started to decline in a meaningful way, and this saw prices improve until the FMD “scare” sent the market falling in August. The weak prices may continue to encourage stock to be held back from sale and see prices steady, if not strengthen. 

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Data sources: MLA, Mecardo

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