Lamb prices buck the trend during winter

27 August 2015

National lamb saleyard throughput, reported by MLA’s National Livestock Reporting Service, eased 6% year-on-year during winter, to around 2.1 million head and was 4% lower than the five-year average (around 2.2 million head).

Seasonal conditions have been mixed across the country over the last three months, with parts of WA receiving much needed rainfall later in winter; however SA and Victoria have remained mostly dry. NSW conditions have improved with good rainfall received in July and late August. 

Typical for this time of year, saleyard offerings in both NSW and Victoria declined 6%, to 1.4 million head and 352,156 head, respectively. SA lamb supply lifted 5% to 155,764 head, as dry conditions were experienced across the state. WA yardings were 14% lower year-on-year, to 156,079 head.

Eastern states lamb slaughter followed more of a seasonal pattern, comparable with 2011 and 2012, with the average weekly kill around 328,892 head (MLA’s NLRS). Processing levels were tighter in all states, except for SA.

Typically, lamb prices steadily decline through winter and into spring, and then rise again after the young lamb flush into summer and autumn. This year, however, lamb prices since May have continued on an upward trajectory, with tighter supplies due to the cold and wet winter, especially in Victoria.

The national restocker lamb indicator lifted 35¢ year-on-year during winter, to average 524¢, while light and Merino lambs increased around 55¢ to average 541¢ and 528¢/kg cwt, respectively. The National Trade Lamb Indicator (NTLI) increased 48¢ to 582¢, while heavy lambs were 46¢ higher on 589¢/kg cwt.

Competition for young lambs is set to intensify due to the tighter supplies in Victoria, with yardings down 28% year-on-year, to 21,374 head, delayed by the cold winter. While in NSW, young lamb offerings are up 12% year-on-year to 194,676 head. Processor and restocker purchases have accounted for the same percentages year-on-year in NSW, with average prices hovering around 610¢, up from 539¢/kg cwt last winter.

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