Lamb prices come off the boil ahead of spring

The lamb market has taken a significant hit in the last few weeks and while it didn’t come as a surprise to most agents, it happened a lot quicker than they expected.

Elders Bendigo, Vic, livestock manager Nigel Starick said only a month ago, trade lambs were making 900 cents a kilogram and they were now back to 750c/kg.

Mr Starick said it was that time of year where people were getting rid of their older lambs before the influx of suckers began to come through.

But he said selling opportunities were reduced on the back of recent closures at major Victorian abattoirs, as well as there being difficulties on the export end moving the product.

“As abattoirs move to the new season lambs, older lambs are taking a bit of a backseat and prices are declining,” he said.

And this was on the back of reduced supply at a lot of southern markets.

“We’ve had very low yardings; two of the last three markets at Bendigo have been two of the smallest markets I’ve ever seen here,” he said.

“And at Ballarat, Vic, [on Tuesday], numbers were considerably lower too.”

He said the quality coming through the physical markets had been very mixed, with a significant amount of “leftover lambs” being offered.

But he hoped prices would at least stay consistent and not drop any further.

“I think producers understand we’re in unchartered waters at the moment and they may need to reset their expectations,” he said.

“And the season’s definitely going to dictate a few things.”

Southern Aurora Livestock livestock agent Will Nolan, who is based at Naracoorte, SA, said he had noticed a significant price drop off in the last three to four weeks.

Mr Nolan noted prices had dropped from about 850-870c/kg to 680-700c/kg.

He said this was about a 150c/kg fall in four short weeks which was “pretty solid”.

“If you’re looking at lambs in value per head, for most, that’s a good $40-odd a head they’re losing on 25-30kg lambs,” he said.

He attributed the price decline to the uncertainty in the majority of Australia’s key overseas export markets.

“There’s certainly less product being shipped overseas,” he said.

“A lot of where it’s gone previously to the restaurant trade or cruise ships has all been shut so it’s having a fairly large effect.”

He said while it was known that those closures were going to have an impact, it took a lot longer for the price to reduce than they had anticipated, given travel restrictions have been in place for some time now.

Mr Nolan predicted numbers coming through the yards this spring would be down on last spring.

But he did anticipate quality may be better than last year.

“The Mallee has had a pretty good run, with some good lambs coming out of there early, and the south-east has had some good early feed growth,” he said.

“Locally, lambs are very good too.”

He said with all of the uncertainty at the moment, he expected prices to be down too.

“To put a price on it is hard but I’m guessing we’ll see somewhere between 600-700c/kg for the spring, which is up to a dollar a kilogram less than last year,” he said.

Image credit – Ian Pfeiffer, Strathalbyn, SA, at Mt Pleasant, SA, recently with Charlie, Eliza, and Henry Beaumont, Mt Barker, SA, and their grandfather TFI’s Phil Heinrich.

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