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

The imminent start of winter has brought with it the rain and it has delivered. The west finally got the drink it so desperately needed, and there is some more to follow according to the forecasts. The market had mixed results, with the two-speed market trend continuing to widen. Yardings fell week on week and slaughter levels remain elevated for both lamb and sheep.

After many months of missing out, rain finally fell in the west. Lamb and sheep prices in WA had mixed results, but mainly rose week on week despite a lift in saleyard throughput. Trade lamb prices in WA were up 11% to 530 c/kg with a slight decrease in yardings. Light lambs rose the most in regard to value, with an increase of 6% (18 c/kg) to finish the week at 288 c/kg. Headcount for the light lambs also rose 48% for a total throughput of 3.6k head. Mutton lifted as well, up 3% to 180 c/kg and its yardings were up 44% to 3.9k head.

Moving back to the eastern states, the Eastern States Trade Lamb Indicator (ESTLI) was up 1% (4 c/kg) on the week prior to finish the week at 689 c/kg. Yardings for the indicator fell away by 11% to 27.9 k head. Wagga and Ballarat had the largest contributions to the ESTLI for the week and both saleyard reports mention a two-speed market with buyers competitive for the high-end quality pens, and cautious not to drive the price up on the plainer pens. As we enter the winter cycle of the market and towards to end of the lamb season the quality mix broadens.

The National Mutton Indicator fell by 1% to 306c/kg with yardings for the indicator back 11% (10.4k head). At the other end of the age spectrum, restocker lambs in the eastern states averaged 625 c/kg and was up 3% for the week. Yardings for the restocker lambs were flat week on week.

Heavy lamb prices on the east coast also increased slightly by 2% (15 c/kg) to close the week at 699 c/kg. A smidge short of the 700c/kg mark where it was last at in early February. Throughput for heavy lambs on the east coast actually increased 11% week on week, indicating robust demand for the export kill ready lambs.

Slaughter for the week prior held steady for lamb and sheep combined. East coast lamb slaughter remains elevated compared to the same week last year (15%) and the 5 year average (34%). For sheep, slaughter levels are even more elevated, nationally last week 188k sheep were slaughtered which is 75% above the 5-year average. Year to date on average the sheep slaughter rate has been 47% above the 5-year average.           

Next week

First selling week for winter should see the two-speed trend continue. Supply is strong from the paddock and despite the recent rain and chance of some more on the forecast, it will not instantly alleviate those with feed supply issues. This will allow buyers to remain selective in their purchasing decisions, although we are still seeing strong demand for quality which can pull prices up.   

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Data sources: MLA, BOM, Mecardo

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