Mutton drought at saleyards adds pressure to prices

Mutton numbers have dwindled at the start of the week but lamb yardings have held up reasonably well which has put pressure on prices at some selling centres.

Ballarat yarded just 2361 sheep on Tuesday while numbers at Bendigo on Monday dropped to 1400.

A similar trend unfolded across the border in South Australia and NSW with 1000 sheep yarded at the SA Livestock Exchange at Dublin and 861 at Naracoorte on Tuesday and 986 at Forbes

The small yardings helped push up prices with very heavy crossbred and Merino mutton jumping by as much as $20 a head at Ballarat.

Heavy mutton sheep rose by $15 at Bendigo with big crossbed ewes in wool selling for $264.

However Ballarat’s lamb market showed a softer trend in places with a slight increase in numbers to 23,805.

Light trade weights, 18 to 20kg carcase weight, and trade lambs, 20 to 24kg, both sold firm to $5 cheaper.

Heavy trade lambs, 24 to 26kg, sold firm to $10 cheaper while heavy lambs, 26 to 30kg, were $10 cheaper.

Lamb prices were reported as firm to dearer with heavy export grades topping at $260 at Bendigo where 15,000 were yarded.

Lamb prices at Forbes were quoted as firm to slightly easier with 11,041 yarded.

Restockers are active in most markets. Young Australian White ewes topped Tuesday’s national lamb sale on AuctionsPlus at $351 a head.

Two lines of the 6- to 7-month-old breeders totalling 180 from Marrar in the NSW Riverina fetched the top money.

They were estimated to weigh 39 kilograms live and sold for 900c liveweight. Another 90-head lot of the same ewes were knocked down for $350.

A line of 130 Border Leicester-Dohne cross ewe lambs from Lake Careglligo in southern west NSW sold for $302. The 8- to 9-month-old ewes weighed 54.9kg (550.1c a kg live).

Meanwhile, Australia’s sheepmeat export figures for April showed the coronavirus pandemic hasn’t yet had much impact on sales.

Both lamb and mutton shipments to China, which is now playing hardball with Australia over Canberra’s calls for an independent investigation into the origins and spread of COVID-19, actually rose compared with March.

China imported 7086 tonnes of lamb, up 2pc month-on-month, and 4584t of mutton, up a whopping 40pc compared with the previous month.

Sheepmeat exporters are hoping China’s decision to target four beef abattoirs in response to a growing bilateral trade row won’t spill over into lamb and mutton.

Exports to the US, Australia’s other major sheepmeat market, dropped 24pc month-on-month to 5922t.

Lamb sales to COVID-19 battered America in April dipped by 12pc to 4755t while mutton shipments nosedived by 52pc to 1167t.

The eastern states sheep and lamb slaughter bounced back last week, driven by solid rises in NSW but was still 28 per cent below year-ago levels.

Lamb slaughterings rose 3pc to 279,494 with 142,922 in Victoria (no change on last week), 93,760 in NSW (up 8pc) and South Australia (3pc).

Mutton processing rose 6pc to 59,902 with a 11pc jump in NSW to 31,873 while Victoria lifted 7pc to 21,423


Image credit: RESTOCKER RESURGENCE: Ongoing demand from restockers in response to rain is helping underpin sheep and lamb prices at a time of uncertainty caused by coronavirus.

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