The prospect of useful widespread rain during the next few days has helped give lamb and sheep markets a solid start to 2020.
The sniff of moisture sparked strong competition from restockers this week which helped push up prices for store lambs.
The Eastern States Trade Lamb Indicator rose 11 cents on Tuesday to 736c a kilogram while the Restocker Lamb Indicator jumped 17c to 766c.
Meanwhile, the lamb slaughter is also ramping up after the Christmas slowdown with processing numbers rising 43 per cent last week in the eastern states to 360,295 including 203,677 in Victoria and 100,533 in NSW.
The sheep slaughter jumped 65pc to 152,164 including a 117pc rise in Victroia to 62,555 and a 40pc increase in NSW to 71,435.
Major selling centres reported dearer markets at the start of this week with lamb prices climbing by $5 top $15 a head across a yarding of 29,695 at Ballarat on Tuesday.
Meat and Livestock Australia reported feeders were active, buying light lambs shorn and unshorn from $74 to $204.
Shorn lambs presented better this week to reach $236 to top of the market.
Lightweight unshorn 2 score lambs 12-18 kilograms sold from $86 to $148 to average 758c a kg dressed.
The 2 and 3 score trade lambs 18-22kg sold from $135 to $153 to average around 745c.
The 3 score lambs 22-24kg sold from $165 to $187, ranging from 707c to 765c to average about 745c.
The 4 score lambs 24kg to 26kg sold from $182 to $200 to average around 753c.
Heavy 26kg to 30kg lambs sold from $204 to $232.
Sheep numbers at Ballarat jumped to 19,389, up almost 12,000 on last week's yarding.
The market started softer, was dearer through the middle and finished softer to be around 5c to 10c a kg back on last week.
Lightweight 1 and 2 score sheep sold from $66 to $129 to average 570c. Medium weight sheep sold from $94 to $158, ranging from 495c to 668c, with Merino mutton averaging around 590c.
Heavy Merino ewes sold from $148 to $180 and heavy crossbred ewes sold from $136 to $213. Heavy Merino wethers sold from $140 to $220 and medium weights sold from $107 to $155 to average 605c. Heavy crossbred wethers sold from $140 to $226.
The sheep yarding at Bendigo on Monday doubled to 10,000 head on the back of strong mutton prices.
Lamb numbers stayed steady at 10,000 but the quality was mixed and fat cover was lacking over a big percentage of stock, MLA reported.
But prices did lift on last week with heavy export lambs estimated to dress 34kg selling to a top of $242.
The best trade weight lambs, 24-26kg and shorn, sold from $180 to $202.
Price outcomes for trade lambs were linked to breed quality and condition and there was a wide carcase range of 700c to almost 800c a kg.
Store lambs with some frame and style sold from $125 to $155 to the paddock while very small lambs were down to $90.
Strong prices and the ongoing dry attracted 10,000 sheep including crossbred ewes and lines of Merino wethers and ewes displaying plenty of weight and cover.
The mutton market was dearer compared with last week with the main runs of heavy sheep averaging around 600c.
The heaviest crossbred ewes sold from $170 to $220 and heavy Merino ewes in various skin lengths sold from $155 to $190. Heavy Merino wethers sold to $222
A yarding of 40,550 at Forbes on Tuesday included 23,250 sheep (up 15,700) and 17,300 lambs (up 3400).
Store lambs to restockers were $4 to $8 dearer with prices ranging from $130 to $173.
Trade weight lambs were firm to $4 better with prices ranging from $144 to $177.
Heavy and extra heavy lambs were $3 to $5 dearer.
Heavy lambs to 26kg sold from $170 to $206. Extra heavy weights fetched from $196 to $238.
Carcase prices averaged from 726 to 770c.
Merinos made up the majority of the mutton offering and prices lifted by $10 a head.
Merino ewes sold from $118 to $23. Crossbred ewes ranged from $118 to $239 with Dorper ewes receiving from $117 to $210.
Dubbo's yarding on on Monday reached 21,540 with an even split between lambs and sheep.
Lightweight lambs to the processors were up to $14 dearer with the 12 to 18kg 2 scores selling from $85 to $146.
Trade lambs were $7 to $11 dearer with the new season lambs selling from $135 to $178 while the trade weight old lambs sold from $131 to $188 to average from 725c to 765c a kg.
With rain forecast for later in the week restocker lambs were up to $20 dearer with the better lambs selling from $103 to $152 while very young lambs sold from $50 to $98.
There were some very good heavy weight sheep along with the expected plainer types in a mixed yarding of mutton where most grades were $9 to $13 a head dearer.