Despite an early surge in slaughter levels, the average price paid for lamb is “smack bang” on the same period last year.
The eastern state trade lamb average is 603 cents a kilogram for the last five weeks, according to data from Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA), mirroring the same period last year when 18-22 kilogram lamb av 603.6c/kg.
“Eastern pricing is smack bang on last year so you can expect the market to follow suit and emulate last spring conditions,” Australian Lamb Company livestock manager Ben Verrall, Colac, Victoria, said.
“It will follow the same course.”
Heavy lambs have fetched an av 600c/kg and mutton 395c/kg, echoing the first five weeks of spring in 2016 when heavy lamb, weighing more than 22kg, av 603c/kg and mutton av 406c/kg.
An early burst of numbers coming out of the north due to the dry weather has seen a difference in the year-on-year spring slaughter levels.
There were 935,742 lambs processed in the five weeks from 2 to 30 September, according to MLA, marking a 23 per cent jump on the same time last year.
Mr Verrall said concerns had reignited for processors who were managing procurement against an evident price ceiling by global customers.
“Demand is there but they want to buy a product at November prices,” he said.
“We’ve got meat to sell so we deal with it.
“Prices have increased every year but a ceiling was clearly set last year which made it difficult to move the products, that’s why abattoirs slowed down or closed on the basis of (prices verse demand) not balancing.
“Currency is a factor now and energy costs are another big factor.”
This year, several processors across the country, including Shark Lake Meat Works, Esperance, WA, JBS Longford, Tasmania, Manildra Meat Company, Cootamundra and Western Australian Meat Marketing co-operative, Goulburn, NSW, have temporarily or permanently closed, citing extreme livestock prices, procurement and energy prices as the cause.
Going forward, Mr Verrall forecast spring to emulate prices for the eleven weeks from October 2016 through to the Christmas recess, when eastern states’ trade lamb av 542c/kg, heavy lamb av 533c/kg and mutton av 384c/kg.
ALC are currently at peak processing with 6,000 lambs a day, which Mr Verrall said most Eastern states’ processors would currently be operating at maximum capacity.
“The northern stock lacked a bit of weight due to the season but other than that the quality has been great with genetics getting better every year,” he said.