Market watch: NSW sheep

14 March 2018

While eastern parts of the state enjoyed decent rainfall over the last fortnight, many western regions missed out. Saleyard prices have felt the pressure of strong supplies and the season’s effect on quality.

Majority of NSW still waiting on rain

Eastern parts of NSW received considerable rain over the last couple of weeks, particularly the north-west corner of the state – associated with the low-pressure system over Queensland, which brought very heavy falls to many drought-affected areas.

However, a large proportion of NSW’s sheep reside in the central and western regions, which are still awaiting a decent break after a hot and dry summer. During February, rainfall across most of the western half of the state was ‘below-average’ to ‘very much below average’, and a few isolated pockets recorded the ‘lowest on record’.

Lamb yardings

Last week, the number of lambs yarded across NSW totalled close to 102,000 head, up marginally on the previous week’s levels – accounting for 51% of the country’s lamb saleyard throughput. The state’s throughput was 9% lower than the same time last year, however this is off a high base as conditions across NSW in February 2017 were extremely dry which saw higher stock turnoff increase. This time last year, NSW accounted for 58% of the national lamb yardings. Sheep throughput reached just over 47,000 head in NSW last week (57% of the national total) – down 8% year-on-year.

What’s happening at the markets?

NSW lamb saleyard indicators have followed a downward trend so far in March. Over the course of last week, restocker lambs in NSW lost 41¢, finishing Friday (9 March) on 625¢/kg carcase weight (cwt), trade lambs declined 20¢ to 597¢/kg cwt, and heavy lambs moved 19¢ lower to 600¢/kg cwt.

At the opening NSW markets for this week, prices across most lamb categories continued to ease, with quality a factor in many cases. Trade lambs at Corowa averaged 589¢/kg cwt this week, down 38¢ week-on-week, with plainer quality lines in reasonable supply, while heavy and extra heavy lambs were limited. There were a good selection of heavy weights at Dubbo this week, and a fair number of trade weight lambs penned, although a large proportion of lambs lacked weight and finish. Trade lambs at Dubbo averaged 587¢/kg cwt on Monday, down 14¢ from the same time last week. Dry conditions at Tamworth saw restocker demand ease, and prices followed a cheaper trend.

The NSW mutton saleyard indicator dipped slightly during last week, but has since picked back up, and reached 428¢/kg cwt on Tuesday – up 10¢ from the same time last week. At Tamworth this week, there was strong competition for sheep from processors which saw medium and heavy weight lines considerably dearer, and restockers were active on lighter weight lines. At Dubbo, light and medium weight lines were steady, while heavy weight sheep prices lifted week-on-week. Most grades sold to a dearer trend at Corowa.

Slaughter stats

Last week was the highest weekly lamb kill in NSW since in August 2016, which makes it the second highest weekly kill for the state since MLA’s records began (in 1990). The number of lambs processed was close to 124,000 head – up 16% on the previous week, and 23% greater than the same week last year. Sheep slaughter was just over 54,000 head, down 2% week-on-week, but 5% higher than year-ago levels.

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