Drought drives lamb prices higher

By Rodney Woods

Saleyards across northern Victoria and the southern Riverina are seeing lamb prices reach record highs as a lack of heavy lambs pushes up prices.

Elders Yarrawonga livestock agent Scott Parker said the reason for the high prices was simply because of supply and demand.

‘‘In the saleyards, it’s the old supply and demand,’’ Mr Parker said.

‘‘Definitely we thought the market was going to be strong with supply and demand but the amount it has been going up, there doesn’t seem to be a ceiling.’’

Mr Parker said when the sucker lambs became available, prices could drop.

‘‘I think as the sucker season ramps up, prices might soften,’’ he said.

‘‘There’s not much weight around so anything with weight could stay strong.’’

Across the region, records have been broken at several saleyards, including Deniliquin, Finley and Bendigo.

A record price of $278.60/head was achieved at the Deniliquin sheep sale on July 24, with Deniliquin farmer Jane Caldwell’s first- and second-cross lambs attracting hot bidding due to their weight.

Miss Caldwell said Landmark agent Marc Braybon estimated they were close to 40kg.

Mr Braybon said lambs with that kind of weight were hard to come by due to the climatic conditions.

And while those conditions are expected to continue, Mr Braybon believes prices will now start to plateau.

‘‘Heavy lambs are in short supply because it is so dry, and there’s not a lot of feed around,’’ he said.

‘‘There’s no lamb-fattening feed between here (Deniliquin) and the Queensland border, so there’s no supplementary feeding going on.

‘‘I think we have hit the threshold though, and I don’t think the prices will get too much higher.’’

Miss Caldwell said her top-priced pen of first- and second-cross mixed sex lambs had been fed on native grasses and lucerne.

She said her other slightly younger, lighter weight lambs that had been supplementary fed actually made less at the same sale, selling for $228.

At Finley, the record price of $270/head for 18 White Suffolk lambs, was reached among a yarding of more than 9000 lambs and sheep on July 24.

Not only was the record price for lambs achieved, the sale’s yarding was one of its highest in years and resulted in a record gross sale value of $1.5million.

The southern Riverina was not the only area reaching these highs, with Bendigo’s good quality slaughter lambs increasing by $10 to $25/head and extra heavy export lambs selling from $260 to a new Bendigo record of $278/head.

These results are having major impacts on the Eastern States Trade Lamb Indicator with it reaching 845¢/kg carcase weight (cwt) as of July 27 for heavy lambs, 45¢/kg higher than the previous week’s result.