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Seasonal trends and supply surge impact sheep prices

14 March 2024

The sheep market has had a strong start in 2024, with heavy lamb prices at 786¢/kg (cwt), a figure not seen since January 2023.

This marked a substantial recovery for the market, following its lowest price point in a decade. However, a familiar pattern from the previous year seems to be emerging, with prices starting high but gradually easing, by almost 20% compared to the same period last year. This trend underscores the increased volatility and diverse market pressures impacting prices.

Traditionally, this time of year sees the entry of lambs born in the previous winter enter the market, having gained over the spring and summer months. While this seasonal price adjustment is expected, there has been a notable 13% increase in yardings compared to the same time last year. This surge in supply has made buyers more discerning, exerting downward pressure on prices and leading to heightened scrutiny of the physical attributes of lambs presented at saleyards.

The scarcity of skilled shearers in today’s market landscape poses challenges, as leaving lambs unshorn can render it difficult to assess their physical condition and manage weight gain for optimal meat production. Consequently, interested buyers are offering discounts on unshorn lambs due to the additional cost and effort required for shearing, rendering them less desirable at saleyards for certain buyers.