The heavy export lamb market is heading into the Christmas period in good form.
Price results at the National Livestock Reporting Service monitored saleyards were generally dearer.
The market average for good quality heavy export lambs ended the trading week up 8 cents a kilogram to rest at 756c/kg carcase weight which is 20c/kg above last year's rates.
Supplies of heavy lambs at northern markets have contracted sharply in the past two weeks, with saleyards struggling to offer any big numbers of lambs weighing 30kg cwt and above.
This has put pressure on rates across heavy export categories, however, bigger numbers starting to flow out of the south, with Ballarat yarding 31,000 lambs and Hamilton a modest 12,000, aiding demand.
Meanwhile at other centres, quality and numbers are starting to decline noticeably which has been reflected over the past few weeks.
Good quality export lambs were $11 a head dearer at Wagga Wagga, NSW, last week, with extra heavy lambs reaching $268.
The National Livestock Reporting Service quoted quality trade lambs 22-24kg unchanged to a few dollars dearer.
The better finished trade suckers weighing 22-24kg sold from $170-$195 to average 770c/kg cwt.
The restocker lamb market, however, was on fire with buyers prepared to chase lambs to extreme levels despite fewer lambs being available.
In the sheep sale, rates lifted and recovered last week's losses.
On the mutton supply front, the magnificent season is forcing farmers to consider stocking options ahead of the summer.
It showed up in last month's figures where the number of sheep at major selling centres was down on last year's numbers.
With harvest in full swing in the north, it has disrupted lamb movements this week, pushing prices higher at all major saleyards.
Markets at Dubbo, NSW, and Corowa, NSW, could only muster 16,500 lambs between the two yards.
Prices for trade lambs averaged 790-834c/kg with the supermarket lamb recording a top price of $200.
Prices for heavy crossbred ewes sold at $170-$250, averaging 692c/kg.
Closer to home, at Bendigo there was little change in numbers with 22,000 lambs and 10,000 sheep yarded.
Heaviest suckers over 30kg cwt sold to $240, with rates improving $9 across the extra heavy categories.
Trade prices were quoted firm to average 743c/kg cwt.
Bidding for sheep was described as intense when prices rallied $21 for heavy sheep to record a top price of $269.
Ballarat lamb numbers jumped to 37,361 with quality outstanding.
The market was $3 dearer for heavy lambs topping at $265.
- Leann Dax is an NLRS market reporter.