Flocks of young unshorn lambs seperated, in the sheep yards, from their parents, out the front of the shearing sheds waiting to be shorn, on a small family farm in rural Victoria, Australia

Australia’s October sheepmeat exports were the highest monthly total on record, driven mainly by significant increases in mutton volumes. Unfortunately, record-breaking exports and strong slaughter throughput were not enough to impact domestic markets this week as pretty much all of the price indicators have reverted in the last week back to month-ago levels.

The National Mutton Indicator has barely moved since it dropped to the 110¢/kg mark a month ago and still sits at nearly 80% lower year-on-year. While only making up about 3500 of the 53,000 head eligible for the NMI this week, the price WA sits at a significant discount of 71¢/kg, and Victoria, which had the second-highest mutton throughput, is also below the 100¢/kg mark.

The Eastern States Trade Lamb Indicator lost all of the gains it has made in the past month this week, dropping back to the same price it was four weeks ago, at 458¢/kg. While it is not unusual for new season lamb prices to start losing steam as the Victorian yarding numbers ramp up in November, the already low starting point had many hoping the slight rises in recent weeks were here to stay. Ballarat, Victoria, has overtaken Wagga Wagga, NSW, with the biggest ESTLI eligible lambs this week, making up more than 21% of the eligible stock and averaging about 10¢/kg below the price indicator.

Figure 1 shows us however that the ESTLI is more than 40¢/kg higher than where it started the spring, despite slaughter continuing to be close to its highest levels for the year. Last week’s total national slaughter was the third highest for the year at 643,036 head, up nearly 30% on the same time last year. It was about 11,000 head lower week-on-week, driven primarily by 20,000 less lambs being processed in NSW. Total yardings rose about 14,000 this week, indicating slaughter could make up last week’s losses when the latest data comes out.  

Next week

The national restocker lamb price held fairly firm this week, despite an extra 19,000 head being included in the indicator, so it will be interesting to see if any of the rain that has fallen this week will encourage any movement in throughput or pricing next week.

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Data sources: MLA, Mecardo

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