Lamb prices heat up as numbers tighten

Lamb prices continue their rise as numbers tighten

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Rodwells auctioneer Dale Dridan and Rodwells area manager Wayne Driscoll at Horsham last week where lambs sold for $301 per head. Photo by Samantha Camarrie.

Rodwells auctioneer Dale Dridan and Rodwells area manager Wayne Driscoll at Horsham last week where lambs sold for $301 per head. Photo by Samantha Camarrie.

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Processors forced to shell out for share of tightening lamb numbers across eastern states.

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  • Eastern States trade lamb indicator 819c/kg cwt
  • National mutton indicator 565c/kg cwt

The expected dearth of lamb supply into winter is driving lamb prices into new territory as processors are forced to shell out for a share of tightening numbers.

Historically high saleyard prices have been received for lamb and mutton with the eastern states trade lamb indicator (ESTLI) up another two cents at the close of selling on Monday landing at 819c per kilogram carcase weight (cwt).

The ESTLI moved above 800c/kg cwt for the first time in 2019 last Tuesday.

Mutton was also fairing strongly at 565c/kg cwt at close of selling on Monday, yet this price was also first reached last Tuesday when it set a new record high.

So far in 2019 the indicator has averaged 26c or six per cent higher than the same period in 2018.

The last fortnight has seen multiple lots of heavy lambs crack $300/head, at Victoria's Ballarat saleyards in mid May and at Griffith three days after.

Prior to July last year such levels would not have been expected.

But in the last seven days prices have again been taken to another level the eastern states compete for the highest saleyard price for heavy lamb.

On Monday $302 was paid at Corowa in southern NSW for extra heavy lambs estimated at 40kg cwt.

On the same day at Bendigo, Victoria, prices reached $297 for similar sized lambs - only $3 shy of last year's peak.

What is believed to be a breed record for the selling centre at Bendigo, grain-fed Merino lambs sold to $260.

In Victoria, Horsham recorded a line of lambs selling for $301/hd with another not far behind at $300/hd.

On Thursday at Wagga Wagga in NSW, 91 extra heavy Poll Dorset-cross lambs, with an estimated carcase weight of 41kg, were knocked down for $315/hd.

But the price was quickly trumped on the Friday when a line of lambs at Griffith saleyards, weighing close to 40kg cwt, were purchased by Australia's largest meat processing company, JBS for $320/hd.

The National Livestock Reporting Service reported most lambs at Griffith being $10 to $15 dearer, as were sheep.

A line of 330 January shorn rising six-year-old Merino ewes averaged $225/hd.

But all prices for May were outdone on Tuesday when the state lamb price tumbled in South Australia, when a pen of extreme heavy weight lambs sold for $336/hd at Dublin.

Harrop Pastoral, Paskeville, now holds the state lamb record, selling 53 November-shorn lambs.

The record previously stood at $300, paid at Dublin last week for 79 June-drop Merino-White Suffolk lambs from fellow Paskeville vendor, Bruce Daniel.

According to the National Livestock Reporting Service, competition on the 10,000 lambs and 2000 sheep yarded at Dublin on Tuesday was "extreme".

Lamb prices were up across the board, matching trends seen in the eastern states.

Also on Tuesday, a saleyard lamb record was set at the Naracoorte Regional Livestock Exchange, with 83 June-drop second-cross lambs from Peter and Ruth Gericke, Hynam, making $301selling to JBS Bordertown.

They also sold another pen of lambs for $300 to JBS.

Rodwells Wimmera area manager Wayne Driscoll said prices were off the charts with a lack of supply across eastern Australia at the moment.

"It will be a difficult time for producers going forward in terms of supply," Mr Driscoll said.

"Hopefully we see some good results in the sucker department in spring, when the grass gets going."

- With Erin Witmitz

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