Autumn lamb indicators lower, despite late recovery

02 June 2016

Australian lamb saleyard prices during autumn averaged slightly lower than in 2015, with most of the national lamb indicators down marginally on year-ago levels – despite all categories surging at the end of May with the late break in the season.

The National Trade Lamb Indicator averaged 527¢ during autumn, 2% lower year-on-year; however it remained 3% above the five-year average (514¢/kg cwt). Heavy weight lambs eased 3%, to 525¢, while light lambs averaged 519¢/kg cwt, down only 1% on year-ago levels. Restocker/feeder lambs lost 7% year-on-year, on 484¢, whileMerino lambs out-performed all indicators – up 7%, to average 514¢/kg cwt for the March to May period.

Underpinning the slightly lower prices was higher lamb saleyard turnoff for the season, with average weekly yardings hovering around 34,293 head – 6% higher than the same time last year. Autumn 2016 was the warmest autumn on record, and the prolonged warm and dry conditions saw market confidence falter early in the season. A late seasonal change saw great regional variation in rainfall, however most of the key lamb producing areas received average rainfall for the season overall.

In autumn, eastern states average weekly lamb slaughter was similar year-on-year, at 360,646 head, however still 11% higher than the five-year average for the period. A surge in slaughter levels in May did little to affect rising prices driven by the rain.  

The June to August rainfall outlook points towards a wetter than average winter across most of the mainland, which, in conjunction with anticipated tighter lamb availability and solid forward contracts put out in May for winter delivery, will likely support saleyard prices through the winter months.

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