Beyond the saleyards: Lamb bonanza offsets mutton

Rob KellyCountryman

The lamb and mutton market finished last week slight weaker, with one buyer reducing their grid by $0.10 for lamb and $0.20 for hoggets and mutton.

The market seems to have found a level that continues to pull stock off farm with a couple of buyers commenting on more lambs being available for this time of year than what they would have traditionally expected.

Processor throughput bounced back for the week ending April 12, with an increase in lamb throughput more than offsetting the lower mutton volumes.

Overall, though, we are still 65,000 behind where we were at the same time last year.

And while we’re behind last year’s pace in WA, nationally we are well ahead of it following some significant throughput in late January/early February on the east coast.

Live export totals have for the first quarter been released by DAWR and sheep live exports came in at 393,000, down around 50,000 on Q1 last year but up on the 364,000 seen in 2017.

East coast direct prices sheep and lamb prices have also remained relatively stable with some minor increases in Merino and XB lamb prices through Victoria, but SA and NSW have remained flat.

Hogget and mutton numbers haven’t moved significantly over the same period.

The MLA sheep and lamb Over-the-Hook indicators have been flat for Victoria and SA but strengthened slightly for NSW.

Rains on the east coast along with the Easter and Anzac public holidays are expected to continue to restrict saleyard throughput in the next few weeks and should support direct prices.

For the cattle market, it appears buyers have found the level they require to get stock, if not slightly overdone for a short period.

Several buyers have reduced prices by $0.10 in areas where they recently increased them by $0.40 - $0.50.

This tells us that they’re getting enough stock at their current prices.

We’re now seeing steers at $5.75 cwt (Teys) and $3.10 liveweight (Whyalla Beef) across the east coast.

Export numbers of Queensland are coming in around $2.80 liveweight for late April/early May delivery (Queensland Rural Agency).

Live export totals have for Q1 shown a strong start to 2019 with 271,000 exported, up almost 50,000 on Q1 last year but not as high as the 310,000 seen several years ago in 2016. The WA cattle market has been relatively unchanged for the last week.

Cows remain around $1.80 to $2.30 and processor prices around $4.00 and feeder steers around $2.90.

Katanning saleyards weren’t open yesterday but will be back open next week.

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