Mutton continues to defy market trends by breaking all the rules this spring, and keeps getting dearer.
Price gains of $20, $30 and in extreme cases $40 for slaughter sheep is unusual for any market in spring but mutton is surprising pundits at every turn.
And it's not isolated with much dearer trends starting to appear at Bendigo, Ballarat, Hamilton and Wagga Wagga in NSW - just to name a few markets.
By Monday last week good lines of Merino ewes and wethers were quoted by the National Livestock Reporting service in the south above 660 cents a kilogram carcase weight.
In a dollar-per-head term this was putting a lot of heavy sheep at $175-$255.
Against the odds
Traditionally mutton prices start to decline from September onwards as the market experiences a flush of cull ewes and aged wethers being sold after shearing and lamb weaning.
Saleyard data shows in a normal year an average price correction of 30c/kg for mutton between September and November is usually experienced.
It highlights the unusual price pattern for sheep in the past week.
At the close of business last week saleyard price averages for mutton was listed at 624c/kg carcase weight.
The high prices reflect supply, with reports sheep numbers in the north have tightened considerably forcing for example Fletchers International to travel as far as Hamilton to acquire heavy mutton.
At Wagga heavy crossbred ewes made more than extra heavy lambs recording a top price of $265, while heavy shorn lambs over 30kg cwt reached $252.
When you compare prices it's quite breathtaking to witness aged cull ewes making more than the top pens of lambs.
Combine the shortage of sheep in Australia and the burgeoning demand for affordable meat in China, it's a guessing game where prices will land looking ahead.
Ewe prices ease
In opening markets on Monday, Bendigo's price results for heavy crossbred and Merino ewes headed south with a price correction of $15-$22 in a smaller yarding of 8000 sheep.
The main lines of heavy sheep sold at $175-$243 to average 643c/kg cwt.
The lamb market gathered pace for both trade and export lambs and contributing to the rate rise were new season lambs from southern areas.
Trade lambs sold at $165-$190 averaging 770c/kg cwt.
Heavy lambs surged $9-$13 making from $186-$245 averaging 762c/kg cwt.
At the Corowa, NSW, lamb market, the bulk of the good trade lambs weighing from 22-24kg was unchanged making from $175-$192 averaging 769c/kg cwt.
Heavy lambs sold at $196-$233 averaging 720c/kg cwt.
- Leann Dax is an NLRS market reporter.
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