Central West stock agent, Greg Knaggs.ROBUST trade and heavy lamb prices have catapulted light lambs to new highs in the saleyards.
Light lambs are traditionally the domain of the restockers, but a shortfall in supply coupled with insatiable demand means this category is averaging well in excess of 610 cents a kilogram (carcase weight).
During the drought, restocker lambs were plentiful as producers sold stock early – now there’s plenty of green feed about, buyers are finding it much harder to source the light lambs they require.
Although demand was building at the end of last year, in just the past few weeks the average prices for light lambs has skyrocketed.
On Tuesday, The Land’s restocker lamb indicator sat at 616c/kg. This was a rise of 21c/kg since the start of sales for 2011.
The remarkably high prices become more pronounced when compared to what restocker lambs were making just 12 months earlier – a difference of 122c/kg.
National Livestock Reporting Service analyst, Rob Millner, said restocker and feeder demand for store lambs had started the year on a very strong note, as eastern States farmers tried to make the most of the consistent summer rain.
“Additionally, the favourable outlook for lamb prices has contributed to the robust demand,” he said.
He said the very good seasonal conditions had resulted in more producers electing to hold onto store lambs, choosing to only sell prime lambs or even retain ewe lambs.
“Hence, the number of lambs purchased by feeders and restockers for the year to date declined three per cent year-on-year.”
The low numbers and robust demand caused the national restocker lamb indicator to lift $7.50 a head since the first week of January, to settle on $98.50 a head last Friday.
Ray White Emms Mooney director, Ben Emms, Blayney, said the restocker market in the Central Tablelands had been solid and there were still good supplies being offered.
He said although the prices were high, many restockers were buying with confidence that the lamb market, generally, would remain buoyant.
“In some cases, because of the strong rates, we are seeing producers selling their lambs in the wool rather than sending them in shorn.”
Mr Emms said much of the restocker lamb supply had been local, however, there have been runs of lambs from the Crookwell and Goulburn areas also being sold at the Central Tablelands Livestock Exchange, Carcoar.
Meanwhile, Australian lamb exports reached 155,496 tonnes (shipped weight) in 2010, back six per cent on the record set in 2009 (165,000t).
Despite the decline, 2010 was still the third-highest year on record – characterised by a reduced supply of lambs, record-high saleyard prices, the Australian dollar hitting parity, and resilient demand from the Middle East and South East Asia.
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