Lamb heads for robust year as appetite grows

Lamb heads for robust year as appetite grows

Sheep & Goats
HIGHLIGHT: Heavy lambs prices are at their highest level since the height of the drought during the winter price peak of 2019.

HIGHLIGHT: Heavy lambs prices are at their highest level since the height of the drought during the winter price peak of 2019.

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The price of lamb has continued its rise this year as global demand for meat ramps up through the back half of the winter season.

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The price of lamb has continued its rise this year as global demand for meat ramps up through the back half of the winter season.

And although prices came off the boil recently, all indicators for lamb are performing well above last year's levels.

The most evident retreat was the National Trade Lamb Indicator falling below 900 cents per kilogram.

It is currently sitting at 890c/kg after a steady rise since early June, compared to 703c/kg at the same time last year.

The National Heavy Lamb Indicator (NHLI) lost 31c to finish at 928c/kg last week, albeit remaining 292c above levels last year.

Before falling, heavy lamb prices had surged to 959c/kg - surpassing the 957c/kg record reached in the winter of 2020.

Currently, the NHLI is operating 27 per cent higher than the same time in 2020.

MLA markets information manager Stephen Bignell said heavy lambs prices are at their highest level since the height of the drought during the winter price peak of 2019.

"Several key market drivers have delivered excellent returns for producers across several saleyards throughout NSW and Victoria in particular," Mr Bignell said.

"Looking into the supply and average prices for the year-to-date in 2019, 2020 and 2021, heavy lamb throughput nationally in 2021 is 17pc, or 1.54 million head, higher than 2020 volumes and 19pc higher than 2019 volumes, amounting to 1.74 million more lambs.

"The average price in 2021 year-to-date is 19c softer than average price of 2020 for the same period, which was 840c/kg cwt, albeit with 1.54 million more lambs put through the saleyards.

"Compared to the record-breaking year of 2019 for lamb prices, the average year-to-date price in 2021 is operating 59c higher, averaging 820c compared to 761/kg cwt."

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He said the excellent season and softer grain prices have both supported the uptick in heavy lamb supply in 2021 which has not damaged buyer demand to secure those lambs at the saleyards.

And while prices are matching or surpassing levels made in recent years, this year's trade prices have been significantly more consistent then 2020 and 2019.

The lowest price for trade lamb so far this year was 783c/kg on April 21 - compared to 626c/kg in 2019 and 637c/kg last year.

In the past six weeks, prices have been very strong, probably the strongest we have ever seen them. - Peter Cabot, Nutrien Ag

According to industry experts high prices are being driven by strong international demand from China and North America as global economies wake from the pandemic, combined with low flock numbers and a favourable season.

In the latest Rural Bank Australian Agriculture Mid-year outlook 2021 report, the ESTLI is forecast to ease as the spring flush of lambs hits the market.

But although increased production is expected to add downward pressure on prices, it coincides with a recovery in consumer demand which will help support prices at above average levels.

In light of the nearing sucker season, at the country's largest sheep and lamb selling centre in Wagga Wagga, yardings for well-grown lambs are surging, as farmers look to cash in on the buoyant market.

A fortnight ago, Wagga Wagga saleyards set a new record for the month of August with a total of 69,400 head penned including 59,900 lambs and 9500 sheep.

According to Nutrien Ag selling agent Peter Cabot, many new season suckers sold to $245, topping at $260 a head and averaged $10/kg.

But thousands of heavy lambs sold to $345 a head, equating to about $9/kg.

"Normally in the winter months we don't see these sort of numbers, it is reasonably quiet," Mr Cabot said.

"But we have had larger yardings in comparison to this time of the year in the past few years and this is mainly driven by producers cashing in on the current good prices.

"In the past six weeks, prices have been very strong, probably the strongest we have ever seen them."

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