The Melbourne Cup and handy rain across many parts of inland NSW cut lamb and sheep yardings at the start of this week and sent some key indicator prices heading north.
The Eastern States Light Lamb Indicator had added 22 cents a kilogram by Tuesday evening to 765c while the Mutton Indicator climbed 5c on the back of reduced numbers to 570c.
The Mutton Indicator has shed 37c in the past month but is still a whopping 163c above year-ago levels.
Similarly, the benchmark Eastern States Trade Lamb indicator has dived by 43c in the past month to 760c but is still a healthy 97c above where it stood this time last year.
The NSW Trade Lamb indicator is sitting at 777c compared with 735c in Victoria and 734c in South Australia.
Any follow-up rain in drought-hit NSW will likely prune yardings further heading into summer and put more pressure on prices.
More significant rain would likely spark a hot lamb and mutton market over the Christmas period with export demand remaining strong.
The Melbourne Cup holiday was blamed for a reduced yarding of 22,635 lambs at Ballarat on Tuesday, down 4544 on the previous sale.
Agents reported excellent quality on offer with strong competition for over 24kg lambs.
Heavy young lambs sold to $247 and young shorn lambs sold from $180 to $200 a head.
Lambs 22-24kg sold from $172 to $198, making from 708c to 808c to average 755c a kg dressed.
Heavy 3 to 4 score lambs 24-26kg sold from $190 to $214 to average around 770c.
Export lambs 26-30kg sold from $205 to $226 to average 795c.
Sheep numbers were also down slightly to 8961 with prices generally up $5 to $20 a head on last week.
Lightweight 1 and 2 score sheep sold from $83 to $120 to average 585c. Medium weight 2 and 3 score sheep sold from $112 to $158, making from 514c to 670c with Merino mutton averaging around 630c.
Numbers tumbled at Bendigo on Monday with lamb numbers back almost 10,000 head on the previous sale to 15,000.
Agents reported a plainer quality offering with fewer fresh-conditioned young lambs available.
They noted extra store buying activity for lightweight lambs but the market overall was cheaper.
Most sales were from $7 to $15 cheaper with some categories recording losses of up to $20 a head compared with a week ago.
The bulk of the lead drafts of unshorn crossbred lambs weighed from 26kg to 30kg and made from $202 to $222 a head.
The good 24kg to 26kg young lambs sold from $180 to $206. Bidding was patchy across the general run of trade weight lambs, 20kg to 23kg, with most selling for $145 to $170 a head.
On a carcase basis there was a spread of 680c to 770c over processing lambs with most of the better finished stock averaging between 730c and 750c.
Sheep numbers also fell sharply on the big supplies of recent weeks with just 6000 yarded.
Mutton showed a firm to dearer trend, particularly for heavy weight ewes.
Meanwhile, north of the border at Forbes, numbers eased slightly for Tuesday's sale with 11,850 lambs on offer and 8650 sheep.
Store-type, new-season lambs attracted strong competition selling from $90 to $166. Trade weights were $2 to $3 better with prices ranging from $153 to $188.
Heavy and extra heavy weights were also $2 to $5 better with heavy lambs to 26kg selling from $186 to $224.
Mutton prices jumped $10 with Merino ewes selling from $112 to $188. Crossbred ewes sold from $108 to $210 with Dorper ewes ranging from $100 to $185. Merino wethers sold from $106 to $194.
A sniff of useful rain slashed Dubbo's lamb yarding by almost 7500 lambs to just 3640 on Monday.
The bulk of the lambs were lightweight new-season suckers suitable only for the restockers.
Light weight lambs to the processors were $14-plus dearer with the 12kg to 18kg 2 scores selling from $90 to $148.
The few trade lambs were $20 dearer with the trade weight new-season suckers selling from $159 to $190 while the trade weight old lambs sold from $140 to $211.
A few pens of trade weight Merino lambs were also $20 dearer selling from $138 to $173.
Restocker lambs were $8 to $14 dearer with the better types selling from $100 to $159.
A much reduced sheep yarding of 7490 saw a dearer trend with lightweight mutton $6 to $11 dearer and the heavyweight sheep up to $14 dearer.