Lamb and sheep prices have been somewhat erratic the past few weeks as summer heads into the home straight.
Tight supplies of finished lambs and fewer stock locked into contracts and direct deals has kept major supermarkets and exporters clinging onto mixed quality offerings.
Good quality slaughter lambs were slightly dearer at all the major saleyards last week, with heavy export lambs reaching a top price $275.
Fewer buyers looking for mutton
The mutton market, however, has been losing ground weekly with several export companies sightseeing on a weekly basis.
A case in point was at Wagga Wagga, NSW, where the better covered crossbred ewes attracted only two buyers at times, which resulted in a price correction of $30 to average 536 cents a kilogram carcase weight.
At the close of selling on Friday the mutton indicator slipped a further 26c/kg to sit at 577c/kg carcase weight.
Feedlots, restockers underpin the market
Restockers and feedlots are still the market drivers at most selling centres across light-weight classes, keen to secure well-bred secondary types to feed on through the autumn and early winter.
At Bendigo on Monday numbers fell by 11,300 to 8700 lambs while sheep supplies more than halved to 1800.
New heat wave rules were tried this week which interrupted supplies and capped each agents' numbers as temperatures climb into the high 30s.
Erratic prices were recorded for lamb and mutton as the market was under pressure in the south from the mixed quality offerings.
The best lambs weighing over 30kg carcase weight were chased harder by exporters and were listed as $4 easier, recording a top price of $274.
Lambs weighing 26kg to 30kg dipped $5 a head making from $215-$246 to average 828c/kg cwt.
Strong trade lambs
The best heavy trade lambs and on plainer quality and limited supply jumped $10 selling from $200 to $210 to average 874c/kg cwt.
The smaller yarding and limited supplies deterred restockers with only a few orders in play.
Light lambs returning to the paddock sold from $118 to $160 a head.
Mutton sold to generally cheaper trends averaging 530c/kg to 580c/kg carcase weight.
Other markets also reported mixed trends on the same day, with the general result being downward for mutton as processors backed away from the higher rates of summer.
At the close of selling Monday night mutton dipped 18c/kg to rest at 579c/kg.
Heavy lambs were listed at 816c/kg for a small improvement of 2c/kg, while trade lambs slipped 5c/kg to close at 815c/kg.
- Leann Dax is an NLRS reporter.