We are into the first month of spring and lamb supply has improved. The increase started two weeks ago, later than normal, and has given processors an opportunity to reduce price. Falls of up to $20 were fairly common toward the end of last week. Wagga had a significant price correction on Thursday with little competition from some major domestic and export processors. Buyer competition from northern processors was substantially weaker causing price levels to bounce around, depending on who was buying.
While some processors said they had secured a substantial portion of their offering through direct sales they were still present at the saleyards. The unsettled market makes it difficult to value lambs over the next month.
The mixed quality and a big increase in numbers of new season lambs weighting 18-22kg was being blamed for some of the erratic price trends at Wagga. Agents say meat buyers are trying to reduce prices whenever bigger numbers allow. Prices for new season trade lambs generally averaged 860c/kg cwt making from $148-$224. Heavy new season lambs lost $26 selling at $223-$247.
Old lambs fell back to earth with a thud with most sales $20-$30 cheaper the heavy portion hit hardest. Rain Thursday and Friday last week in NSW could see lamb prices creep back up toward 900c/kg carcass weight. While the eastern states lamb indicator closed well short of this at 849c/kg cwt on Monday, widespread rain across the Riverina and Central West is expected to affect rates according to pundits.
Rain has meant some lambs destined for markets may be held over. It has certainly bought some vital time for producers. Who may now keep lambs on rather than sell unfinished lines because of feed shortages. Opening sales in Victoria and NSW experienced a correction on Monday despite reduced numbers at some markets. Historically high spring values the previous week enticed producers to offload lambs which needed more finish.
The greater availability of trade lambs at all selling centres had an impact on price, with rates falling up to $20 at Bendigo. The main run of new season trade lambs sold at $136-$223 to average 820c/kg cwt. Heavy suckers fell $29 making from $236-$240. Old lambs generally dipped $20 to average 744c/kg cwt.
Ballarat’s lamb market of 12,186 on Tuesday followed similar price trends, falling $15-$22. The market did show more volatility across old lamb categories with returns varying widely. New season trade lambs sold from $166-$218 averaging 822c/kg cwt while old trade lambs averaged 748c/kg cwt. Heavy suckers lacked competition falling up to $29 to average 737c/kg cwt.