Lamb prices are sizzling in the saleyards with the national record smashed at Wagga Wagga, NSW, last Thursday when a pen of heavy-weight lambs sold for $276.20 per head.
The price quickly surpassed the previous record set at Forbes Central West Livestock Exchange just two days prior when a pen of extra-heavy second cross Dorset lambs were knocked down for $260 per head. At Ballarat on Tuesday, a yard record was made when lambs sold to $267 per head.
The record-breaking draft of 168 second cross Poll Dorset and White Suffolk lambs were sold by G.J Hulm and Co. principal, Isaac Hill, on behalf of Doug Constance who ran the lambs at his property at Humula, near Tarcutta in south west NSW.
Mr Hill said the lambs were picked up by Southern Meats at Goulburn and estimated they would have a dressed carcase weight (cwt) of about 41 kilograms.
“The reduced supply of heavy lambs coming through is leading to strong competition in the saleyards,” Mr Hill said.
“Grain has become too expensive – farmers can’t keep feeding to the extent similar to this mob.”
He said as far as prices go, he believes there is more capacity for lambs in general to get dearer.
“The lambs that are making the higher prices, they probably made the same cents per kilo as they have been making for the last couple of weeks, but they were just enormous lambs,” Mr Hill said.
He said the lighter lambs are making more gains.
“We are now starting to see, on a week to week basis, more trade weight lambs are getting dearer every week,” he said.
“Over the last two or three weeks we have seen some of the 25 kilogram lambs improve by $1 to $1.20 per kilogram.”
He said the run of high prices are helping spread optimism in rural areas that are otherwise consumed with concern by the current dry seasonal conditions.
Over the last two or three weeks we have seen some of the 25 kilogram lambs improve by a $1 to $1.20 per kilogram
More high prices are tipped to follow because of the classic supply and demand situation.
Lighter and less young lambs
High returns for lambs should remain through winter as the season stalls supplies of suckers and new season lambs.
Lambs hit $276.20 at Wagga Wagga on Thursday, but it was demand for trade weights that helped lift the price average to 717c/kg cwt according to the National Livestock Reporting Service.
NSW livestock agent, Issac Hill, said sucker or new season lambs are going to be delayed by at least a month due to the lateness of the season.
“We would normally start to see an increase in young lambs in August and have good numbers in September, but it is going to be more like increased numbers in September and good numbers in October,” Mr Hill said.
According to Mr Hill the sucker lambs are expected to be lighter with very few lambs grain assisted.
Because of the lack of rain, he said many clients won’t be able to turn off young lambs midwinter due to grazing crops not offering the early feed supplies needed.
“By the time September/October comes about there isn’t going to be any feed grown and we will not have been through any harvest,” he said.
Victorian Livestock agent, Ian Carmichael, Landmark Bendigo, said how the season develops will hold the answer to the sucker market in Victoria.
“If we don’t get rain in the next 10 days we will be in deterioration mode instead of climbing and sustaining what we have got,” Mr Carmichael said.
“Those that have had the opportunity to lamb down on irrigation country or on country that has access to water, those lambs are quite positive.
“But the rest of the lambs in the area are in a holding pattern at present and if we don’t get any rain then they are going to struggle to finish with the deteriorating season.”
In the coming weeks a number of major processors are scheduled to shut down for routine maintenance periods, lessening competition in the market.
“It will have impact on the market, but to what extent we don’t know,” Mr Hill said.
“If the lamb numbers come down at the same time, it will have a minimal impact, but if the lamb numbers remain the same it will have a negative impact on price.”
“Numbers traditionally come back this time of the year, most people are getting rid of the last of their old lambs to make way for the new generation and nothing has changed in that respect.”
The mutton market is as good as it has been in a lot of years, and that was before the recent rain over parts of the eastern states.
The NSW mutton indicator opened this week at 519c/kg according to MLA national market reports, and saw no change early into the week.
The last time mutton surpassed the 500c mark was in June last year.