Lamb bringing down the curtain on a remarkable 2019

Lamb and mutton enjoy record year despite crippling drought

Sheep
FORBES RECORD: Forbes saleyards currently holds the national record for lamb prices at $355 a head.

FORBES RECORD: Forbes saleyards currently holds the national record for lamb prices at $355 a head.

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Drought aside, Australia's lamb and mutton industries have enjoyed a record-breaking year.

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The Australian sheepmeat sector has enjoyed a remarkable year topped by heavy lambs hitting a new national peak of $355 at Forbes in central west NSW in mid-July.

How long that record will stand is anybody's guess given the world has fallen in love with Aussie lamb.

The 11-month-old White Suffolk cross lambs with an estimated carcase weight of 45 kilograms were offered by Forbes producers, Sharon and Chris Petropoulas.

Wagga, Ballarat and Tamworth saleyards also sold lambs in excess of $350 a head during a crazy time for the lamb market in June and July.

China has driven red-hot demand for both Australian lamb and mutton, in part to fill a protein void caused by a devastating outbreak of African swine fever in its pig herd.

For the 11 months to November China had imported a record 138,358 tonnes of Australian sheepmeat, a rise of 43pc year-on-year, including 66,041 tonnes of lamb (up 35pc) and 72,317 tonnes of mutton (up 52pc).

The US has imported 53,373 tonnes of Australian lamb so far this year (up 4pc) and 15,079 tonnes of mutton (down 6pc).

Australia exported 421,954 tonnes of sheepmeat in the first 11 months of 2019, an increase of 4pc.

Our lamb shipments have risen 5pc to 258,109 tonnes while mutton exports have climbed 1pc to 163,846 tonnes.

Meat and Livestock Australia's 2019 highlights included trade lamb prices fluctuating between 670 cents a kg carcase weight and 950c.

The Eastern States Trade Lamb Indicator was sitting on 708c last Friday.

The national mutton indicator kicked off the year at 350c and peaked at a whopping 612c in July before settling to 572c as the start of December.

Weekly lamb slaughter topped at 473,000 head with a low of 280,000 head, averaging 380,000 head per week, five per cent below 2018.

MLA said national mutton slaughter had followed a similar trend with a low in winter of 64,000 head and a high of 221,000 head for the week ending December 6, averaging 3pc less than last year.

Weekly lamb yardings fluctuated between 44,000 head for a shortened week in April and 239,000 head for the week ending December 6, an average of 173,000 head.

NSW saleyards have accounted for 55pc of supply, while Victoria has made up 28pc and WA and SA have both contributed 8pc of lambs.

NSW, the state worst hit by drought, has more than a third of Australia's sheep flock and fluctuations in its turn-off added to larger-than-normal movements in the eastern states indicator prices.

MLA said mutton prices had been the surprise packet of 2019.

The National Mutton Indicator dipped to 544c last Friday on the back of big end-of-year yardings.

The story Lamb bringing down the curtain on a remarkable 2019 first appeared on Farm Online.

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