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Weekly cattle and sheep market wrap

04 August 2023

Key points:

  • Cattle prices held firm as yardings increased
  • Heavier and trade lamb prices lifted while mutton eased
  • Slaughter and export volumes are both well above year-ago levels.


The cattle market mostly held firm this week, as yardings lifted 16% from last week to 47,548 head. Dryer conditions in Queensland improved attendance at saleyards from processors and exporters. The largest increase was seen in Roma, where cattle were drawn from far western QLD, NSW and the local area for a 7,411 head showing, 3,036 above the previous week.

The processor cow indicator rose by 7¢ from last week to 223¢/kg, with yardings of heavy cows increasing substantially at Roma Store, Dubbo and Wagga Wagga sales.

The Heavy Steer indicator rose 5¢ to 284¢/kg, as strong competition and a strong offering in Dalby and Mt Compass counteracted softening in Dubbo, the largest contributor to the indicator at 20.6%.

Commentary from the National Livestock Reporting Service (NLRS) continued to mention variations in weight, quality and finish offering upside in price, and generally well attended sales with spirited bidding on well-presented cattle.


Yardings softened by 6% from last week to 203,679 head, in large part as yardings in Victoria declined by 27% to 31,216 head. Similar declines in Corowa, Yass and Wagga Wagga in NSW were partially offset by fortnightly sales in Cootamundra, Deniliquin, Guyra and Inverell.

Prices were generally mixed – heavier lambs performed better than light lambs and sheep. The Trade lamb indicator rose 10¢/kg cwt to 485¢/kg cwt, with a strong offering at Dubbo, the largest contributor to the indicator and trading a 70¢/kg cwt premium over the national average.  

Mixed condition on both lighter lambs and mutton caused prices to drift sideways through the week. Fewer grainfed lambs were presented, and new season lambs are beginning to appear in saleyards, later than usual and small numbers so far, but that is expected to change in the coming weeks.

The skins market has eased, with X-bred sheep now being charged disposal fees at several processors. According to the NLRS National Skins Report, there has been a considerable easing in the price of lamb sheepskins and a cessation of payments for X-bred sheep, though Merino sheepskins are still attracting 935¢/skin.


Slaughter remains well above year-ago levels across all species as supply continues to increase.

Cattle slaughter was 121,074 for the week, 0.6% more than the previous week and the fourth-highest week in 2023 so far.

Since May, slaughter numbers have resembled 2020, the most recent year of above-average production, though current slaughter figures are now routinely outpacing 2020 values.

Lamb slaughter rose 9.5% from last week to 407,816, while sheep slaughter was up 15% to 131,272 head. Sheep and lamb slaughter are both well above already high 2022 figures, as supply ramps up and demand remains high.


July export data has been released, showing exports continuing their strong pace into the second half of 2023.

Beef exports were up 4% from June and up 30% from July 2022 to total 97,306 tonnes. The USA was the largest market for the month, with exports doubling year-ago levels at 23,909 tonnes.

Lamb exports softened 3% from June and rose 11% from July 2022 to 27,839 tonnes. Mutton exports fell by 27% from June and rose 53% from July 2022 to 12,883 tonnes.

In year-to-date terms, 2023 is the largest year for beef exports since 2020 and the largest year for lamb and mutton exports on record.