After a sharp price drop for finished lambs last week, we were hoping for some improvement this week. None was found, as buying activity was reported as “erratic” in a generally cheaper market.

The Eastern States Trade Lamb Indicator (ESTLI) continued its downward trajectory, losing another 33¢ over this week to settle at 663¢/kg cwt. The West didn’t fare any better, in fact, worse, dropping 67¢ on the week to 490¢/kg cwt. That’s a 26% or 173¢ discount in the west for trade lambs, compared to the east.

Heavy lambs also continued the cheaper trend in all states. The National Heavy Lamb Indicator lost 33¢ over the week to settle at 712¢/kg cwt. The heavy lamb indicator has fallen just under 10% since the start of March and is as low as we’ve seen since September 2022. We did see this trend occur last year with heavy lamb prices falling through until April from where they steadied, before rallying into winter.

The store lamb market has also pushed below the recent trading range. In Victoria, restocker lamb prices moved 121¢ lower this week playing catchup to recent falls in NSW and ending at 526¢/kg cwt. In both NSW and Tasmania restocker lambs were at 541¢ this week.

Light lamb numbers were back slightly across the country this week and demand was very mixed. This caused the National light lamb indicator to bounce from 577¢ at the start of the week to 519¢ on Wednesday before recouping back up to 588¢ by close on Thursday as weaker buying activity in VIC was offset by gains in NSW.

Mutton is again testing the 300¢ mark, with the National Mutton Indicator this week losing 25¢ to end at 305¢/kg cwt. A lift in saleyard throughput pushed prices lower, with this week Ballarat making up 20% of the saleyard mutton offering.

Over the last few weeks, national lamb slaughter has been tracking at close to 2022 levels. In the east, the last four weeks totaled 7% more lambs processed than the same time in 2022. But it’s sheep numbers that are now taking up much more kill space. East coast sheep slaughter was 31% higher over the last four reported weeks than at the same time last year.

The week ahead….

The end of La Niña after 36 months and the very dry outlook for April to June released by the BOM have impacted producer confidence. It doesn’t look like price support will come in the form of a good dose of rain in the near term. Depending on an Autumn break we may see some turnoff early as feed dries up.

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Data sources: MLA, Mecardo

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