LAMB prices continued to climb both locally and around the state last week as heavy lambs topped the $200 mark and even smaller lambs suitable for the trade selling above $150 or to an average of 680c per kg which was typical.
It has local lamb producers grinning from ear to year, that’s if they’ve got any left to sell, with demand continuing to be strong.
And it’s likely the present good prices will continue on for at least another year with the national sheep flock forecast to expand by a further 2.5% in 2018 due to retention and general breeding levels.
MLA says that “stable lamb production and a decline in mutton production is forecast for 2018 as producers maintain intentions to expand their flocks and high wool prices provide an incentive to retain Merino wethers”.
Lamb and sheep slaughter are both expected to drop slightly in 2018, to 22.5 million head and 7.2 million head, respectively. But a small increase in lamb carcase weights will help offset the lower slaughter weight, resulting in stable lamb production at 514,000 tonnes carcase weight (cwt).
It is a slightly different story for sheep, with carcase weights expected to ease from record highs in 2017 back towards their longer term trend. This, combined with declining slaughter, suggests a small reduction in mutton production to 177,000 tonnes cwt.
“There are currently many positive signals across the sheep industry, with producers’ continued intention for flock rebuild and enhanced breeding efficiency apparent in a number of industry surveys.
“The latest ABARES figures are showing good returns in farm cash income and industry reports strong ram sales across the board.
“Consumer demand for sheepmeat has been robust with lamb exports hitting record highs, mutton exports up 11% and reasonably flat domestic consumption despite average retail prices rising further in 2017.
“If the three-month rainfall outlook comes to fruition, with a decent autumn break, the industry will be well positioned for another strong year.
“Current market signals are showing no significant change to international demand in 2018 and with the anticipated softer overall sheepmeat production, this year should see continued support for prices.”
So it’s onwards if not upwards for local sheep and lamb producers with the only issue being how to increase numbers at the present high restocking and breeder replacement prices.
Golden years return for sheep producers