The lamb and sheep markets will start winter in very good shape, with healthy price levels already achieved in April, as limited supplies of prime finished lambs add further pressure to buyers.
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Lamb rates at some selling centres hit 720-775 cents a kilogram carcase weight last week, pleasing producers who were able to hold numbers. The eastern states' national trade lamb indicator sat at 714c/kg cwt, while the heavy lamb indicator was not far off at 696c/kg. These are some of the highest rates for some months, and earlier sales last week saw lifts of $5-$10.
Prices are rising in the lead up to the Easter holiday break despite more lambs being sold. Agents said the autumn break in some areas and strong restocker competition over light trade weight categories, explained some of the price gains.
Lamb prices were dearer at Wagga on Thursday by $5 to $10 a head, following the trend earlier in the week at other selling centres. The build-up in supply came on the back of the looming Easter holiday break. On top of this, there appears to be a shortage of lambs being sold direct.
The intensity of bidding for trade lambs stepped up another gear, with niche supermarket lambs selling up to 780c/kg cwt. Shorter skinned well finished lambs consistently sold from $155-$185 to average 723c/kg cwt.
Feedlot and restocker demand had the greatest influence over lighter weight categories, with store buyers mopping up the bigger percentage of plainer conditioned lambs. Vendors benefited from increased store buyer competition posting dearer rates of $5-$10, while light lambs to slaughter were unchanged with processors unable to match feedlot rates.
Mutton prices were erratic where bigger offerings of sheep at most saleyards dictated a weaker market. The bulk of the yardings have generally been a representation of medium weight lines with heavy and leaner categories in shorter supply. The market at Wagga was $8-$15 cheaper irrespective of weight and quality. Heavy Merino ewes topped at $200 while crossbred ewes made to $196. The bulk of the sheep offering averaged above 500c/kg cwt.
Lamb supplies dipped on Monday at Dubbo and Corowa while at Bendigo due to the approaching Eater holiday break, numbers increased. All selling centres showed a decline in price for heavy lambs.
At Bendigo on Monday trade lamb prices were dearer, although quality was mixed and the National Livestock Reporting Service (NLRS) data showed there wasn't the overall weight in the heavy lamb categories. Trade lambs rates strengthened with the 21-22kg gaining $21 to average 752c/kg cwt. Heavy trades prices were similar to $7 dearer selling from $158-$176 averaging 701c/kg cwt. Heavy lambs saw a price correction of $7 making from $167-$226.
Meanwhile in the mutton sale 10,500 sheep sold to weaker competition. Heavy sheep sold $10-$44 cheaper selling at $128-$178 and big Merino ewes sold to $178. NLRS quoted better quality and leaner mutton returned 482-527c/kg cwt.
With 22,400 lambs, numbers were back this week at Ballarat. Quality was mostly good for trade and heavy lambs. Trade lambs sold $4-$7 dearer topping at $186 to average 720c/kg cwt. Extra heavy lambs dipped $10 averaging 650-680c/kg cwt.