DEMAND for light lambs pushed the NSW Restocker Lamb Indicator above 1000 cents a kilogram (carcase weight) once again last week.
It's a recovery which suggests renewed optimism in the finished lamb market into early next year.
Indicator prices were as much as 50c/kg dearer than a week ago and 250c/kg higher than this time last year, according to figures generated by Meat and Livestock Australia.
Northern NSW restockers appear to be leading the charge higher with prices at North West and New England saleyards recording a combined average of nearly 1270c/kg late last week.
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Demand for young breeding ewes nudged up values in the store markets early this week, too.
At Yass First-Cross Ewe Sale, the market for ewe lambs topped at $420 a head on Monday.
Glen and Keith Gordon, Donach Farms, Barellan, were all smiles when their pen of 202 first-cross ewe lambs, sold through Elders, not only topped that part of the market, but were also awarded best presented ewe lambs on sale day.
The October-shorn ewe lambs were by Mt Beckom Border Leicester rams from Merino ewes bought at Hay sheep sale from Mooloomoon near Moulamein, and Bronte near Booligal.
Greg Anderson from MD and JJ Anderson, Crookwell, described the sale as "beyond expectations".
He suggested before the sale that the top for ewe lambs would be about $330 to $350 a head.
Meanwhile, Meat and Livestock Australia said even though there were reports of increased lamb survival and higher marking rates pointing towards a larger spring crop this year, fewer numbers have moved through the processing chain.
In fact, there was an 11 per cent decline in lamb slaughter on 2019 levels for year-to-September figures.
"When compared to lamb slaughter for the same period in 2016, which was also marked by improved conditions in many sheep producing regions, total lamb slaughter for 2020 has tracked down 16pc, which highlights the ongoing flock recovery phase," MLA said.
That means there's been a greater incentive to retain ewe lambs, driven by both improved conditions and a dampening effect on offshore and domestic demand.
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