With the end of the old season prime lamb market nigh it appears the game is just starting to heat up as buyers scramble to get their hands on the last of them. Competition typically increases as processors face a lag between the old and new season lambs but never in New Zealand’s history have we seen lambs reach such high prices so regularly.
The yards have been a very popular outlet for prime lambs this year as returns are as strong, if not stronger, than at the processors. Tallies have been similar to last year and five-year averages but if there were more around they would be making a quick trip to the yards. And it’s easy to see why when we look at what prices can be achieved, even this late in the game.
As far as prices go a lot has changed in the last 10 years as volume has fallen while demand has risen and with it schedule prices. In 2010 the average prime lamb prices at the South Island yards followed by our LivestockEye reports (Temuka, Coalgate and Canterbury Park) were $80-$130 and while 2011 was strong at $100-$181 that dropped away in a great hurry from 2012 and prices stabilised through 2012-16 at $80-$140. But 2017 saw a lift of on average $15-$20 a head while the last two years (including 2019 to date) have easily been the best with average prices all sitting in a $120-$200 range with the latter more prominent in the last few weeks. Records have even been broken with Coalgate reaching $286 a few weeks back while Canterbury Park had more than one line priced up to $260.
While this market is about to shut its door for the year it’s a small comfort for sheep farmers that, in a time of great uncertainty, at least our products we work so hard to grow are being recognised for their quality.