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Weekly cattle and sheep market wrap

28 March 2024

Key points:

  • Highest weekly lamb slaughter on record and the highest weekly cattle slaughter in nearly four years.
  • Yardings experienced a significant decline due to the Easter long weekend.
  • The Heavy Steer indicator lifted 28¢ to 304¢/kg lwt driven by improved quality and reduced yardings.


The cattle market has improved across most indicators this week. Factors such as rainfall in NSW and QLD, coupled with the Easter long weekend, have contributed to significant drops in yardings through saleyards. Comparing week-to-date figures to create an appropriate comparison, yardings have decreased by a substantial 64%, totalling 20,348 head. Noteworthy reductions in QLD were primarily driven by a nearly 4,000 head reduction through both Roma and Dalby.

The Heavy Steer indicator experienced an uptick, rising by 28¢ to 304¢/kg liveweight (lwt). Light numbers of heavy cattle through NSW bolstered competition for processor-ready cattle. Despite a steady quantity of feeder cattle passing through NSW saleyards, the Feeder Steer indicator lifted by 13¢ to 322¢/kg lwt, despite an easing QLD feeder market.

Market reports indicate a restocker resurgence, particularly through NSW saleyards. The Restocker Yearling Steer indicator lifted 15¢ to 336¢/kg lwt, while the Restocker Yearling Heifer rose by 6¢ to 245¢/kg lwt. High-quality restocker animals experienced heightened demand, largely fuelled by favourable weather conditions and rainfall across cattle country.  


The lamb market has predominantly shown positive trends during this short week, with increases observed across all indicators except the Restocker Lamb indicator. Week-to-date, lamb yardings witnessed a notable decline of 23% to 108,260 head, while sheep yardings fell by 30% to 44,357 head, resulting in a combined yarding change of -25% to 152,613 head total.

The Heavy Lamb indicator performed very well over the week, being the only indicator to experience a lift in yardings week-on-week, with a 4¢ lift to 667¢/kg carcase weight (cwt). Strong lines of finished trade and heavyweight lambs prompted price increases ranging from $5 to $25 in some NSW saleyards.

However, the Restocker Lamb indicator witnessed a decline of 38¢ to 504¢/kg cwt over the week. Rainfall across the northern states did not extend to southern NSW, VIC, SA and WA, resulting in less relief in the restocker market. The national price missed out on the lift from the relatively robust Wagga restocker market this week, though Wagga is expected to rebound with strong numbers next week.


Week ending 22 March 2024

Cattle slaughter experienced a week-on-week increase of 6,809 head to reach 136,503 head, marking the largest weekly cattle slaughter since April 2020. Increases were observed across all states, with QLD witnessing its largest slaughter since May 2020 at 70,961, while Victoria’s cattle slaughter rose to numbers not seen since early 2021. Year-to-date, slaughter is tracking at 186,014 head, or 15% above 2023.

Combined sheep and lamb slaughter surged week-on-week to reach 687,772 head, marking the largest weekly total on record. Notably, Victoria recorded its highest individual slaughter numbers.  Lamb slaughter reached 506,443, surpassing the half-million mark for the first time. However, sheep slaughter witnessed a slight decline to 181,329 compared to the previous week, yet it remains above long-term averages. Year-to-date figures reveal that combined slaughter is tracking at approximately 1.4 million head, representing a substantial 22% increase over the 2023 slaughter numbers, with lamb slaughter up by 26% and sheep slaughter up by 13%.

Note: This report was published on Thursday 28 March due to the Easter long weekend. Saleyards will not operate over the long weekend, returning Tuesday 2 April.