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New Zealand sheep and cattle prices surge

19 August 2021

Key points:

  • NZ lamb and mutton prices hit record 908¢ and 660¢/kg cwt, respectively, amid dwindling supply and strong demand.
  • NZ beef prices climb to historical highs, with slaughter steers and cows achieving 607¢ and 461¢/kg cwt, respectively.
  • COVID-19 restrictions and closures are likely to impact prices, particularly for lamb.

Australian livestock prices aren’t the only ones currently booming, with New Zealand sheep and cattle achieving historical price highs this week, according to NZ Agri HQ weekly report figures.

Sheep

The week beginning 16 August saw NZ slaughter lambs and mutton achieve 908¢/kg and 660¢/kg cwt, respectively. The last time prices neared this level was at the end of 2019.

Sheepmeat prices in NZ have risen sharply since March this year on the back of heightened demand and recently reduced slaughter levels. An earlier offload of prime lambs in 2021 has left winter slaughter supply shorter than ideal and has been compounded by this time of year being seasonally low in NZ compared with Australia.

Australian lamb prices have also lifted since June 2021, and are currently at their highest level since March 2020, just prior to COVID-19 impacting the trade. The Australian eastern states heavy lamb price currently sits at 978¢, with mutton at 680¢/kg cwt.

NZ supply declines may be contributing to a burst in Australian slaughter lamb prices, given both nations produce by far the most sheepmeat in the world and are seeking to meet improving global demand. However, recent COVID-19 impacts to processing plants and saleyard activity may impact future market signals.

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Cattle

Strong demand for finished cattle and low supply is underpinning current saleyard price rises in NZ. NZ has just come off the hottest June and July on record, which has reportedly resulted in some farmers facing feed concerns, prompting a premature offload of heavier cattle. High beef prices are also incentivising the offload. This week, NZ slaughter steer and cow prices achieved 607¢/kg and 461¢/kg cwt respectively, the highest levels since the end of 2019.

Demand from the US and China, along with limited Australian supply, has apparently also helped to push up prices. Australia is facing similar supply pressures for finished cattle, evidenced by subdued slaughter. On Wednesday 18 August, heavy steer prices achieved 786¢/kg cwt, well above NZ levels.

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© Meat & Livestock Australia Limited, 2021