Sheep mar­ket re­view 2018

North East & Goulburn Murray Farmer - - NEWS -

EN­TER­ING 2018, many sheep pro­duc­ers were look to take ad­van­tage of strong meat and wool prices.

How­ever, in­ten­tions soon went out the win­dow as an ex­tremely chal­leng­ing year un­folded.

cien­cies in south-east Aus­tralia, par­tic­u­larly drought­stricken NSW, led to el­e­vated sheep slaugh­ter, poor mark- ing rates and volatile lamb sup­ply.

For­tu­nately, ro­bust in­ter­na­tional de­mand and a fall­ing Aus­tralian dol­lar sup­ported Aus­tralian ex­ports and, in turn, do­mes­tic sa­le­yard prices.

In fact, some indi­ca­tors rose to record heights, with many des­ti­na­tions around the world con­tin­u­ing to seek out Aus­tralia’s high qual­ity sheep­meat prod­ucts.

Lamb slaugh­ter in 2018 ex­pe­ri­enced both record highs and re­cent lows as the mar­ket had one of its most volatile years on record.

After track­ing near even with last year through the spiked in the se­cond quar­ter of 2018 as dry con­di­tions wors­ened and pro­duc­ers looked to de­stock.

Num­bers peaked in May with the high­est month of lamb slaugh­ter on record.

How­ever, weekly slaugh­ter be­gan fall­ing rapidly dur­ing July, as drought con­di­tions led to a na­tion-wide de­lay in the sup­ply of new sea­son lambs.

More re­cently, we have seen some in­creases in the quan­tity of new sea­son lambs of­fered at sa­le­yards in Vic­to­ria, how­ever, those in NSW re­main much more re­stricted.

of new sea­son lambs cor­re­sponds with a gen­eral de­cline in car­case weights.

This was the case in 2018, how­ever, the fall was more pro­nounced than usual, with un­usu­ally high num­bers of lambs pre­sent­ing for sale.

Sub-op­ti­mal pas­ture growth com­bined with the high cost of stock feeds were the driv­ing fac­tors be­hind this trend.

Lamb prices closely mir­rored sup­ply, ex­pe­ri­enc through­out 2018.

Records were bro­ken in Au­gust, as the Eastern States Trade Lamb In­di­ca­tor smashed through the 800¢/kg car­case weight (cwt) mark for be­tween 650–800¢/kg cwt for the last four months.

achiev­ing weight gains, a lambs be­gan to de­velop dur­ing win­ter.

As such, heavy lambs be­gan trad­ing at a premium to trade and re-stocker cat­e­gories on a ¢/kg ba­sis in July, and have largely con­tin­ued to do so since that time.

Since April last year, weekly sheep slaugh­ter has tracked well above 2017 lev­els, as pro­duc­ers had few op­tions but to

De­spite strong wool prices, the lack of pas­ture and high feed costs forced many pro­duc­ers to re­duce stock­ing rates and un­der­take heavy culling pro­grams.

Mut­ton slaugh­ter peaked in Au­gust/Sep­tem­ber, with some pro­ces­sors opt­ing to main­tain out­put by tar­get­ing sheep as op­posed to com­pet ished lambs.

Sheep car­case weights also de­clined in-line with the poor sea­son, run­ning con­sid­er­ably lighter than last year and dip age in re­cent months.

For 2018, the na­tional av­er­age sheep car­case weight is fore­cast to reach its low­est level since 2014.

De­spite a con­sid­er­able sup­ply in­crease, the na­tional mut­ton in­di­ca­tor has re­mained sur­pris­ingly strong so far in 2018.

As of early last month, the na­tional mut­ton in­di­ca­tor sat 19¢ below year ago lev­els, how­ever, it re­mained 103¢/kg cwt

Not all sheep indi­ca­tors have per­formed so well.

The sup­ply of lighter ewes win­ter and be­gan trad­ing at a dis­count.

The poor con­di­tions that have marred 2018 will likely sheep­meat sup­ply in 2019.

Poor mark­ing rates com cull have raised con­cerns through­out the in­dus­try re­gard­ing lamb sup­ply for the com­ing sea­son.

Many pro­duc­ers will be des­per­ate for some more con­sis­tent rain­fall in the com­ing year, which would al­le­vi­ate some of the cost pres­sures as­so­ci­ated with high feed costs.

Longer term, a re­turn to bet­ter con­di­tions would also al­low for some re­build­ing of heav­ily

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