Lamb prices blast through the $300 barrier as supplies tighten

Lamb prices pushed through the $300 barrier this week despite fears about the impact of coronovirus on sheepmeat exports to China.

Extra heavy lambs fetched $305 (estimated to dress 40kg) at Bendigo on Monday but that price was beaten the next day at Ballarat when heavy shorn lambs sold for $310.

The Eastern States Trade Lamb Indicator has shot up 28 cents in the past week to reach 823c a kilogram carcase weight on Tuesday.

Lamb yardings jumped at both Ballarat (19,582) and Bendigo (18,000) as producers moved to take advantage of the red-hot market.

Lamb prices climbed by $10 to $20 a head despite the higher numbers as processors and restockers waded into the market.

Elders livestock manager at Bendigo, Nigel Starick, said current prices were normally reached in March-April when numbers traditionally started to drop off.

He said the major saleyards would continue to attract big yardings of lambs while the over-the-hook rates were so far behind the physical market.

Mr Starick expected the red-hot prices would continue to flush out both lambs and sheep in coming weeks.

The yarding at the South Australian Livestock Exchange at Dublin was unchanged this week at 6000 lambs and 1500 sheep but prices eased slightly which reflected the mixed quality offering.

Anthony Bray, Quality Livestock, Minlaton, expected numbers at Dublin would remain relatively stable in the coming weeks.

He said the number of sheep coming into the region for fattening had dropped off a little because of pasture losses due to fires while some sheep from fire-devastated Kangaroo Island were also being agisted in the area.

Mr Bray said while dwindling supply would put pressure on both prices and processors, the market would have to hit a ceiling at some point

James Tierney, Riverina Livestock Agents, said weekly lamb yardings at Wagga Wagga were likely to remain stable at around 30,000 head in coming weeks although mutton numbers could start to drop.

Although the coronavirus was causing some angst about the short-term future of sheepmeat exports to China, he expected the lamb market would get “pretty dear”.

“The outlook for lamb is very good. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where the highs will be (between now and winter),” he said.

Substantial rain in coming weeks across southern NSW would slow down lamb numbers into Wagga, he said.

Tim Mackay, Forbes Livestock and Agency Company, said yardings of both lambs and sheep would continue to tighten at Forbes.

“There are still a few lambs to come but not as many as normal,” he said.

Tuesday’s yarding at Forbes dropped to 24,300 including 19,200 lambs and 5100 sheep.

Processors and restockers were active in a dearer market with trade weight lambs up $10 and heavy and extra heavyweights rising by $10 to $15, topping at $277.

Merino ewes sold from $119 to $221 a head, crossbred ewes from $122 to $242 and Dorper ewes from $122 to $245. Merino wethers made from $156 to $213.

Mr Mackay said drought and shortages of grain had reduced the number of lambs and sheep brought into the district for fattening.

Some useful rain and the prospect of more had also helped stem the flow of sheep into the saleyards, he said.

“We expect our numbers to be only fairly average to steady this year for quite a while yet.”

Mr Mackay expected weekly lamb yardings to throttle back to around 15,000 which would add upward price pressure on an already strong market.

A return to wet weather would likely trigger a much-needed flock rebuild but producers would also seek to turn-off some stock to capitalise on any sky-high prices.


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Image credit – HOT BIDDING: Lamb and mutton sheep numbers flowing into key saleyards like Forbes in Central West NSW are expected to tighten in coming weeks which would add more pressure on prices.