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Positive start to 2024 in livestock markets

12 January 2024

Key points:

  • Upswing in both sheep and cattle markets
  • Positive weaner sales in Victoria
  • Lamb demand driven by processor demand.

As the new year unfolds, both the cattle and sheep markets show signs of an upswing, marking a positive start after the Christmas break.


There is a strong outlook for the start of the year with cattle prices lifting significantly over the last couple of months. This positive trend can be attributed to the current phase where calves born in winter and early spring are being offered for sale. As these calves transition into yearlings, the demand for weaners has reached its peak, which correlates with the restocker yearling steer indicator lifting by 56¢ to 366¢/kg live weight (lwt) over the past month.

The focus on weaner sales in Victoria has had a positive impact on cattle prices. According to the National Livestock Reporting Service (NLRS) market reports, there was consistent but not heated bidding at Wodonga as buyers were more price sensitive and content with walking away if price limits were met. Quality also played a role in outcomes where price premiums were seen in weaned steer calves over 400kg, as the majority of calves weighed under 280kg lwt.


The sheep market has displayed notable strength, with prices almost returning to levels from the beginning of 2023 for both trade lamb and light lamb indicators. The trade lamb indicator experienced a significant lift of 134¢, reaching 774¢/kg carcase weight (cwt). This was particularly evident in Wagga where prices for trade and light lambs surged by $15-30/head. This upward trend has been fuelled by heightened demand from processors and supermarkets keen on securing lambs for the new year.

Hamilton saleyard prices in the first week of 2024 showed up with prices lifting by $15-20/head but prices have softened by $5-15/head over the last week, but the market is still strong with interest from restockers and lot feeders. Overall, there were good quality yardings of mainly trade weight lambs with a smaller offering of heavy weights and export sheep. Despite a slight easing in prices over the last week, the market retains its strength, underpinned by a healthy balance of supply and demand.