As December sales end for the annual Christmas holiday break, lamb prices have shown great resilience throughout the year.
This year led with an early autumn break then out of nowhere COVID-19 hit in March.
It followed abattoir closures at the drop of a hat and world market turmoil.
Lamb prices were buffeted hard on many occasions throughout this period, but still managed to hold their composure through the year to show some big price improvements year-on-year.
On Friday night the heavy lamb indicator rose 13 cents a kilogram to rest at 762c/kg carcase weight, while trade lambs jumped 11c/kg which is 60c/kg more year-on-year to settle at 764c/kg cwt.
Restocking lambs finished the week at 808c/kg up 110c/kg on last year.
Mutton slipped 16c/kg to settle at 606c/kg but still an upgrading of 48c/kg on 2019.
The supply of livestock journeying to saleyards, particularly mutton, remains low which is reflected in the high prices given at all selling centres.
An example of this is at northern markets where sheep numbers are lucky to hit 10,000, which is rare for the bigger selling centres at this time of year.
While further south mutton numbers have also declined with northern demand keeping rates at a premium.
The lamb market at Wagga Wagga, NSW, continued its strong summer run with 790c/kg the base price for trade lambs heading into the summer break.
The main runs of good heavy trade weight lambs sold at $185-$200 with the shorn portion receiving premium prices.
The push by export processors for extra heavy lambs drove rates $10-$15 higher.
Heavy shorn lambs weighing 30kg carcase weight plus sold from $235-$279, while lambs 26-30kg made from $210-$235.
The lamb market has continued to track strongly leading into the Christmas holiday break in opening markets on Monday.
Both southern and northern lamb sales produced gains over all categories, while mutton rates continue to soften.
Bidding at major Victorian centres varied. At Hamilton different trends emerged for light-weight young lambs depending on whether they were suitable for restockers or processors.
Some weight ranges sold up to $30 a head dearer and other showed cheaper trends.
The main run of store lambs sold from $104-$155.
Lambs suitable for MK bag lambs sold at $76-$158.
The best trade-weight lambs, right for supermarkets and select butcher orders sold $10 dearer to average 763c/kg cwt.
The heavy export market continued to benefit from limited supplies with buyers pushing rates $10 higher to secure numbers.
Heavy lambs sold from $185-$233 to average 762c/kg cwt.
- Leann Dax is an NLRS market reporter