THE top end of the lamb market continues to go from strength to strength and it’s not unusual for the extra-heavy lines to sell for as much as $300 a head.
A pen of extra-heavy lambs, estimated to weigh 42 kilograms (carcase weight) and with a $10 skin, sold for a new national high of $301.20 at Wagga Wagga last Thursday, while other markets such as Forbes early this week have recorded prices not far behind this value.
However, the other end of the market tells a very different tale.
More and more prime lamb producers are opting to sell their unfinished lambs now rather than buy in months’ worth of feed to get the lambs to prime weights.
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At Forbes on Tuesday there were 5850 new season lambs penned (total lamb yarding of 28,500) and while the tops were hitting $209 a head, the bottom, much lighter lambs were being knocked down for less than $40.
This result put price pressure on older lambs where there were plenty in the lighter weight categories making less than $100.
It’s a trend right across the major lamb selling centres and forced the NSW restocker lamb indicator to dive nearly 60c/kg in the past week.
Dubbo’s market on Monday only had a few new season lambs offered, but the light, old lambs were often hard to sell for more than the $100 mark.
The season in the North West has received plenty of metro-media coverage in recent weeks, but a trip to the lamb sale on Monday offered another bleak picture of producers making the hard decisions to sell now rather than continue feeding.
The sale of new season lambs at Tamworth in early August is unusual, although only one pen of these sucker lambs sold for more than $100 and restocker interest was limited.
Anecdotal evidence suggests if these lambs aren’t going back to the paddock, the shortage of prime lambs in mid-spring will really begin to bite.
At the same time, it’s really still too cold for any substantial spring pasture growth to finish these light lambs even if the state received drought-breaking rain right now. It seems those on the land just can’t catch a break right now!