The lamb and mutton markets will enter autumn on a high, with record prices being driven by lower supplies.
Lamb rates kept climbing last week, setting national records at a number of saleyards.
The Ballarat lamb market was head and tails above all other markets, with Goulburn Meats paying $380 a head for lambs weighing 40 kilograms carcase weight, an increase of 283 cents a kilogram year-on-year.
Meat & Livestock Australia said lamb saleyard throughput for February was 16 per cent below year ago levels.
Sheep numbers followed suit, easing 25pc to 116,874 driven by a dramatic slump in supply from SA, NSW and Victoria.
There was increased restocking support at the lighter end of the market, with the prediction of widespread rain driving rates higher at most markets.
A good percentage of lambs, 22kg and below, sold back to the paddock last week.
The surge in demand has been witnessed from Carcoar, NSW, through to Naracoorte, SA, but the biggest spikes have been at Ballarat where store buyers paid up to $235.
Mutton rates have also been a standout over the month, where prices have been pushed to levels not seen before, according to the National Livestock Reporting Service.
At Wagga Wagga, NSW, several pens of crossbred ewes sold from $280- $298.
The sheep market at Wagga last week was quoted $10-$40 dearer, with the bulk of the offering making 670c-720c/kg cwt.
Agents are predicting all buying groups will have to push harder after widespread rain over the weekend to secure lambs in all weights and grades.
At Bendigo, the higher prices of past weeks flushed out 33,770 lambs and 10,750 sheep.
Trade lambs were unchanged to slightly easier and there were plenty of lambs estimated above 960c/kg cwt.
The bulk of the trade lambs sold from $178-$250.
Prices for heavy lambs reached a top of $342, with other drafts selling from $250-$330, averaging 960c/kg cwt.
Restocker demand kept prices high for lighter weight lambs, with store lambs making $98-$164.
A surge in numbers at Ballarat did nothing to stem rates in a yarding of 25,682 lambs and 13,959 sheep.
Autumn rates continue to reward trade lamb producers, with prices unchanged averaging 966c/kg cwt.
Heavy lamb values eased slightly, making $235-$378 and averaging 906c/kg cwt.
Restockers and lot feeders continued their love affair for younger lambs, paying up to $235 for lambs to feed on, while restockers forked out a top price of $169.
The lighter weights returning to the paddock sold from $87-$144.
Trade and heavy sheep were $6-$10 dearer, to average 695-720c/kg cwt.