Lamb trade swings on Covid and season

Lamb trade swings on season and covid

Coronavirus
SUCKERS: Some of the sucker lambs penned at Bendigo on Monday where prices slid $10 to $20/head.

SUCKERS: Some of the sucker lambs penned at Bendigo on Monday where prices slid $10 to $20/head.

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An great early season and Covid worries have posed a few questions about lamb marketing strategies.

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Uncertainty about the ongoing impact of coronavirus restrictions on abattoirs and skinny price differentials has so far helped sideline store lamb buyers.

With sucker lamb numbers ramping up in selling centres from Corowa to Ouyen, and all places in between, producers and store lamb buyers are looking for clues about the longer term price trends.

What isn't a mystery is the wonderful season across Victoria, NSW and South Austraia.

Nutrien Ag livestock manager, Tim Ferguson, Ouyen, said clients were contracting over the hooks some portion of their lambs - "to lock some in and hedge our bets".

"The contracts out there are fair value at 580 cents per kilogram to 600c/kg, at the moment with the uncertainty," he said.

The contracts had a wide weight range around 18kg to 32kg, which "is what we need at the moment" and were good until the end of September. With sucker prices around $145 to $160, producers were "happy enough" with that.

As a result of the season so far lamb weights were heavier than normal and feedback from abattoirs was that the lambs were processing well, he said.

Ewe Wish scanning operator Matthew Ipsen, Wareek, said scanning rates were up 15 per cent across the board in his catchment from Victoria and the Riverina of NSW.

He said producers had reported that more lambs had survived from the autumn lambing.

"There will definitely be more lambs around this year," he said.

Elders livestock auctioneer Aaron Zwar, Warracknabeal, said the season could not be better with falls totaling around 45 millimetres in the past two weeks.

He said suckers started at Warracknabeal last week.

"Prices were the same as anywhere. You can't sell a lamb under $135 and it's pretty hard to get over $160 for the best lambs we produce," he said.

They were locking lambs over the hooks to hold kill space and "have a bet each way", he said.

Nutrien Ag Solutions Bendigo livestock manager Nick Byrne, said the yarding on Monday was double the previous week.

Mr Byrne said the coronavirus concerns had brought lambs forward.

Without COVID, producers would be keeping their lambs to heavier weights rather than selling them now at 18 to 20kg, because there was feed to do that, he said.

He said there was a small amount of restocker inquiry, but store lambs were up to $130 - "which looks a lot when good ones are making $150 to $160".

"Everything is pointing to having to keep them until after Christmas and on today's numbers there's not a lot in it," he said.

He said producers did have the plus this year of an increase generally of 15pc lambing rates and 15pc lower cost of feed to get the lambs to sale weights.

Thomas Elder Markets commodity market insights manager Matt Dalgleish said despite the relative tight supply, the Eastern States Trade Lamb Indicator had softened 30pc from its seasonal peak in March.

"The fair value range for quarter three of 2020 sits between 655-955c/kg cwt so we could expect to see some support for trade lamb prices as we approach the 650c/kg level," he said.

He said a scenario was that decline in offshore sheep meat demand as economic growth in key trade partners stagnated into 2021 suggested weaker trade lamb prices could persist until 2022.

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