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Autumn flush of lambs hits the market

10 March 2022

Key points:

  • Last week, lamb slaughter was above 2020 and 2021 levels for the first time this year.
  • Lamb slaughter was 10% higher this week than the same time last year.
  • Lambs that were held back in January and February are now hitting the markets.

Lambs are now flowing on to the market, lifting 2022 weekly lamb slaughter volumes above 2021 and 2020 levels for the first time this year.

Last week, lamb slaughter in Australia was 386,897 head, 9.6% higher than the corresponding week in 2021.

This higher lamb slaughter was predicted, as many lambs hitting the market now would have traditionally hit the market in January and February were it not for the spread of the Omicron COVID-19 variant and its impacts on processor capacity.

Since the start of March, throughput in the heavy lamb category has risen 11%. This has placed downward pressure on prices, with prices dropping 3% since 1 March to 784c/kg.

The seasonal Easter lull is still five weeks away. In the next five weeks before Easter, lamb turn-off should continue at elevated levels as the 2021 lamb cohort – which was bigger than the five-year average – hits the market and as processors make up for reduced slaughter in January due to COVID-19 restrictions.

With close to 50% of lamb processing occurring in Victoria, lamb processing plants have not been affected by flood-related closures.