The lamb market seems to have moved away from its traditional seasonal-influenced price pattern of premiums in the winter and lower returns in the summer. That is a key query posed by the opening rates after the Christmas holiday break, which recorded its highest ever trade lamb prices according to buyers and agents at Wagga in NSW. Wagga Agents said only a fortnight ago, neat well-finished shorn trade lambs hovered close to the 800c/kg carcass weight mark with all domestic and export processors scrabbling over the top of each other to secure supply.
While it can be argued the recent price spike is somewhat artificial driven by low pre-Christmas lamb numbers in the north and saleyard closures that caused the EYCI to jump in the final days of trading it’s still difficult to overlook the change in price pattern this year and in 2017.
Buyers and agents both agree the lamb market is finely balanced and any significant change in lamb supply will quickly result in cheaper prices. Looking over the past three months we have had a situation of restockers buying a lot of lambs and eventually those lambs have to come back onto the market whether in the physical market or sold direct.
This was evident at Wagga last week when supply jumped significantly and prices fell. Agents said there was an obvious trend processors were trying to reduce prices and the bigger numbers allowed weaker competition. Trade lamb rates were influenced by the level of supermarket competition across well finished pens 22kg plus. Trade lambs over most categories averaged 640c/kg cwt. Heavy lambs felt the brunt of the cheaper trend, making from $160-$230 averaging 630c/kg cwt.
Bendigo’s offering of 19,715 lambs sold to significantly cheaper trends on Monday in what the National Livestock Reporting Service (NLRS) described as an erratic sale. The NLRS said shorn trade lambs held their value while secondary full wool lambs sold to discounted rates. The top drafts of shorn trade lambs averaged $158 or 646c/kg cwt. Heavy lambs fell $21 making from $168-$208.
Meanwhile in the mutton run prices also met a headwind falling $6-$14 with trade sheep feeling the brunt of the cheaper trend. Heavy crossbred ewes sold from $110-$148 heavy merino ewes topped at $157 and wethers at $150. Most classes of sheep averaged from 400-450c/kg cwt.
A significant drop in numbers to 33,853 saw another good quality yarding offered to the regular buying group at Ballarat. Lambs sold to cheaper trends of $13-$18. The best heavy lambs reached $230 with better covered domestic lambs selling from $134-$168.