New season lambs considerably heavier in 2019

07 November 2019

Key points:

  • Total lamb supply has been similar to 2018
  • The weight of these lambs is considerably higher
  • A shortage of light lambs is driving up restocker competition.

A decrease in the supply of restocker weight lambs through saleyards has started to impact prices, with the national restocker indicator above trade weights since the beginning of October.

Throughout October, new season lambs have been entering the market in numbers not dissimilar to last year. However, a notable difference to 2018, and the 10 year average, has been the prevalence of heavy lambs entering saleyards and the comparable decrease of light lambs.

In October 2018, 41% of lambs sold were below 18kg carcase weight (cwt), or restocker weight, with the 10 year average 36%. However, in 2019, only 31% of lambs were classified restocker weight while the heavy lambs accounted for 35% of all lambs sold in October.

Although the restocker lamb indicator is notoriously volatile, with changes of 30¢ in a day not unusual, prices through winter tracked below the trade lamb indicator as prices for finished product reached unprecedented levels. With this decline in lighter lambs going to restockers and feeders, the price for restocker lambs has climbed above trade lambs over spring.

On Tuesday the national restocker indicator traded at 783¢/kg cwt, a 29¢ premium to the trade lamb indicator. However, while both indicators have eased on week and month ago levels, they remain 90¢ above year ago prices.

Now, it appears that the shortage of light lambs in the market has driven up the price restockers and feeders are paying to get lambs that need more time to finish. Coming into the last few weeks of the year, the southern markets see yardings increase as producers finish their lambs over spring. It will be interesting to see whether the supply of lambs will maintain at year-ago levels or whether the increased weights earlier in the season implies there will be more lambs entering saleyards in the last weeks of 2019 and the start of 2020.

© Meat & Livestock Australia Limited, 2019

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