Lamb and mutton prices have been in retreat during the past week but prices are still ahead of year-ago levels with the exception of heavy lamb.
The lamb and mutton slaughter both increased across the eastern states last week. Lamb slaughterings rose 5 per cent to 352,030 head on the back of a 12pc lift in NSW (96,668) and 3pc in Victoria (201,957).
The sheep slaughter jumped 6pc to 142,306, driven up by a hefty 25pc increase in drought-hit NSW (64,920).
By Tuesday evening the National Trade Lamb Indicator had dropped to 780 cents a kilogram dressed, a loss of 19c in the past week but still 6c above year-ago levels.
The Eastern States Trade Lamb Indicator has shed 25c in the past week to slide to 781c which is just 2c above the same time last year.
The National Heavy Lamb Indicator was sitting at 770c on Tuesday evening, a decline of 31c in the past week and 30c below where it was a year ago.
It was a similar picture for the Eastern States Heavy Lamb Indicator which has lost 9c in the past week to reach 770c, a drop of 37c in the past month and 32c below year-ago levels.
The National Mutton Indicator has lost 10c in the past week to land at 554c which is 99c above year ago levels.
The Eastern States Mutton Indicator has dropped 10c in the past week to 583c which is still a whopping 122c higher than levels the same time last year.
Lamb prices eased at major Victorian and NSW saleyards this week with prices dropping by $2 to $10 a head at Ballarat on the back of an increased but high-quality yarding of 22,909 head.
Lamb numbers dropped at Bendigo on Monday with 25,000 yarded. Agents reported erratic buying on a high-quality offering of lambs.
Prices for processing lambs weighing over 22kg slipped by $2 to $8 a head.
In contrast, the price trend for lighter weight lambs under 20kg was firm to significantly dearer in places, pushed along by higher restocker demand and buyers wanting suitable MK (moslem kill) export lambs.
Extra heavy young lambs over 30kg topped at $234 a head in a limited run. The bulk of the heavy crossbred young lambs, 26kg to 30kg, ranged from $206 to $232 to average around $218 a head.
The main run of 24kg to 26kg lambs sold from $189 to $212 for an overall average of $200-plus a head.
The Dubbo yarding on Monday saw a large offering of light lambs as more growers were forced to offload stock because of ongoing drought.
Light weight lambs to processors were firm to $3 dearer with the 12-18kg 2 scores selling from $100 to $145 a head.
Trade lambs finished $5 to $6 cheaper for the lighter weights and up to $12 cheaper for the heavier weights.
The trade weight new-season lambs sold from $140 to $200 to average from 780c to 820c a kg.
Heavy weight lambs were up to $20 cheaper with the over 22kg 4 score old lambs selling from $184 to $240.
Numbers of both lambs and sheep dropped sharply at Forbes on Tuesday with 5600 new-season lambs in the yarding.
Store type new-season lambs to restockers sold from $91 to $163. Trade weights were $10 a head easier although quality had an impact on prices.
Heavy and extra heavy weights were also $8 to $10 easier.
Many drought-hit producers in NSW now face some tough decisions on whether to feed their sheep through another tough spring and summer.
Mecardo analyst, Angus Brown, said lower grain prices would make it cheaper to carry sheep through the summer this year.
However, this was being offset by lower wool prices which were reducing income to cover feed costs.