Lamb prices continue to be a mixed bag as the extraordinary season keeps pushing out higher numbers than what would usually appear during early winter at northern markets.
While there was the occasional modest gain at some saleyards for trade lambs in the past week, another big offering of 32500 lambs at Wagga Wagga, NSW, dragged rates considerably lower for trade lambs.
Adding to the mix was some unexpected price spikes for heavy lambs.
Prices for the best domestic slaughter lambs at Wagga fell $7-$11 for the main lines of 21-24kg, most were grain assisted or crop finished to average 851 cents a kilogram carcase weight.
The trend shows up in the latest national price indicators with trade lambs listed at 860c/kg cwt.
Processors said their phones are running hot, with farmers wanting to book new season trade lambs early for direct to the abattoir deals.
Due to mild conditions and abundance of feed, the season has become increasingly challenging with producers wanting to offload young lambs early, to ensure their lambs meet processor specifications of a fat score three.
The big drama now is trying to avoid penalties for over-conditioned new season lambs with a fat score of four. An example of this was a few pens of new season lambs 23-25kg with major domestic buyers walking away, because they were classed over conditioned.
A major processor said they were already taking delivery of 1000 new season lambs a week, which is the first time this has happened since the 1970's
Heavy lambs made up almost two thirds of the yarding at Wagga and surprisingly rates were unchanged to $2 dearer selling at $200-$280 to average 731-788c/kg cwt.
Major sales on Monday reported further price corrections of $10-$20.
Price averages for the main lines of supermarket lambs averaged 799-830c/kg.
Heavy lambs at Bendigo sold $9-$20 cheaper averaging 700-780c/kg cwt.
The trends were similar at Corowa, NSW, and further north at Dubbo, NSW, where trade lambs made from $156-$192 averaging 797c/kg cwt.
At Ballarat on Tuesday there were no sales above $246, and it appears likely the run of record-breaking heavy lambs 35-44kg has slowed with less weight and export competition now evident for extra heavy lambs.
Some export abattoirs are closing for winter maintenance while others are operating at reduced capacity.
This meant extra heavy lamb rates fell $30-$43 to average 722-746c/kg cwt.
Trade lambs suffered a price correction of $26 selling at at $156-$198 to average 782c/kg cwt.
Meanwhile, the mutton run continued its cheaper trend losing a further $20-$32. Heavy ewe mutton average 529c/kg while trade types averaged 611c/kg cwt.
- Leann Dax is an NLRS market reporter.