Abundance of grass sees restocker prices climb

Restocker lamb prices head back towards record territory

Sheep
Ash Bayliss was representing family with this pen of 198 ewe lambs, account Monmore, Woodstock, that sold for $336.

Ash Bayliss was representing family with this pen of 198 ewe lambs, account Monmore, Woodstock, that sold for $336.

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Abundance of grass along the eastern states sees restocker lamb prices head towards record territory.

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As the bumper season continues, sheep producers are letting the grass do the work for them, making use of light and new season lambs with restocker lamb indicators head towards record territory.

Despite the dip in August when the National Restocker Lamb Indictor (NRLI) eased back to 632 cents per kilogram carcase weight (cwt), it is now trading at higher premiums year-on-year than all other prices.

Last week, the eastern states restocker lamb indicator closed at 942c/kg, up 133c/kg for the year and jumping 27c/kg in the past month.

But these high restocker lamb prices are widespread across all of the eastern states, where year-on-year increases are 31pc for Queensland, 24pc for NSW, and 10pc each for Victoria and South Australia.

Livestock manager, Nutrien Ag Solutions Wagga Wagga, James Croker, said the rise in restocker lamb prices is purely grass driven.

"We have had the best season that anyone can remember and people can see the positivity in the red meat market and the sheep industry," Mr Croker said.

He said for the specialist lamb finishers, it's a battle to try and find store lambs.

"This is purely because the feed is there and not everybody wants to sell," he said.

"But then you always have the people who want to sell because the money is good and the money is good because the demand is there."

But principal livestock agent Jock Duncombe of Duncombe and Co. Crookwell, NSW, said although producers are considering how they can best value-add under the current market conditions, some are remaining somewhat conservative.

"The last 18-months to two years is still pretty raw in the back of their minds - it was a hard time for them," Mr Duncombe said.

"I think we will see people have a gamble to a certain degree, but they will still be a little bit conservative."

Mr Duncombe said this year producers are happy letting the pastures do the work for them instead of it coming out of a feed cart.

"You can see it by the amount of stock that is coming back from the west, there's thousands and thousands of lambs," he said.

"Whether they're White Suffolk mixed sex or Merino ewe lambs, or Merino wether lambs, people are having a gamble with what they are comfortable with and not sticking their neck out too far."

He said weight will always beat rate.

"Weight will always beat a guarantee hook rate of any description," Mr Duncombe said.

"At the end of the day, a 30kg dressed weight lamb is going to make more money then a 22kg dressed weight lamb.

"That's why this year a lot of people are growing their lambs out to heavier weights. Some are unknowingly doing it because things are better than what they anticipated."

Mecardo livestock market analyst Jamie-Lee Oldfield said the reason for the price haul comes from pure demand, but doesn't look like it is supply driven with national yardings pretty much on par year-on-year for October.

"MLA reported more than 20,000 restocker lambs were offered in the eastern states for the week ending October 30, compared to 819 in the first week of August," Ms Oldfield said.

"Plenty of store lambs are being sold through AuctionsPlus, with producers liking the option to leave them in the paddock if the price isn't right.

"Last week more than 33,000 head of store lambs were offered on the box, with a 95pc clearance rate, and prices averaging 417c/kg lwt, with the best selling at 693c/kg lwt."

There were 20,342 restocker lambs offered in the eastern states for the week ending October 30, up from August 6 when 819 restocker lambs were offered.

Over the same period, the national restocker lamb indicator has improved 40pc, with SA restocker lamb prices improving by even more, at 48pc.

At present, other lamb saleyard indicators are still outperforming year ago levels, but not to the same extent as the National Restocker Lamb Indicator.

The light lamb indicator has climbed 13pc on year-ago levels to 820c/kg cwt.

The national trade lamb indicator has not risen as much, up only 4pc on year-ago levels to 789c/kg cwt, while the heavy lamb indicator is slightly up 2pc to 777/kg cwt.

WA has not enjoyed such high prices for restocker lambs this year, up 2pc on year-ago prices largely due to drier conditions in the state, which mean producers are not rebuilding as they are lacking the capacity to finish lambs.

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