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Lamb yardings increase as prices slide

26 March 2020

Key points:

  • National yardings up on year-ago levels as market uncertainty grows
  • Lift in Victoria supply offsets fall in NSW yardings
  • Prices crashed on Wednesday, however remain significantly elevated on year-ago levels


National lamb yardings lifted to 263,400 head last week, the highest throughput so far this year and a 33% increase year-on-year. Looking at a state level, NSW supply saw a decline on year-ago levels albeit contributing just over 50% of the national lamb supply since the start of the year. However, last week’s decline in NSW was largely offset by a significant lift in Victoria supply, which saw Ballarat and Bendigo lamb throughput at 33,000 and 27,000 respectively. Both Victoria and South Australia reported the highest lamb yardings, per state, so far this year with WA also gaining momentum – reporting its highest yarding since December last year.

Prices have started to decline as producers look to offload stock, with prices still at historically high levels, in the face of Covid-19 uncertainty. With lambs continuing to be pulled forward in strong numbers, supply over the winter could contract to a greater extent. Strong domestic demand supported an uptick in eastern states lamb slaughter for the week ending 20 March, 19% higher compared to the week prior.

Lamb yardings for the week ending 20 March:

  • New South Wales totalled 106,670 head, down 15% year-on-year
  • Victoria totalled 104,354 head, up 114% year-on-year
  • South Australia totalled 26,407 head, up 165% year-on-year
  • Western Australia totalled 23,461 head, up 93% year-on-year

Sheep yardings for the week ending 20 March:

  • New South Wales totalled 34,748 head, down 42% year-on-year
  • Victoria totalled 35,187 head, up 48% year-on-year
  • South Australia totalled 7,348 head, up 145% year-on-year
  • Western Australia totalled 18,314 head up 59% year-on-year

Saleyard prices

Lamb prices have continued to track lower this week, however, remain elevated on year-ago levels. All categories have come under pressure in recent weeks as the rain-driven price surge has halted. Given the market dynamics, it appears lamb prices have peaked in the short-term, with further rain and a change in the trading environment required to reserve current trends. Looking to winter, in the event of global uncertainty subsiding and the anticipated squeeze in lamb supplies, prices could find support again.

Eastern states indicators as at Wednesday 25 March:

  • Light lambs averaged 837¢/kg cwt up 165¢ year-on-year
  • Trade lambs averaged 873¢/kg cwt up 199¢ year-on-year
  • Heavy lambs averaged 853¢/kg cwt up 197¢ year-on-year
  • Restocker lambs averaged 946¢/kg cwt up 256¢ year-on-year

© Meat & Livestock Australia Limited, 2020

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