Lamb supply shaping up for tight winter

Key points:

  • Lamb slaughter continues to track well below year-ago levels.
  • National lamb yardings reflect the tightening supply.
  • Expectation for lamb supply to remain subdued until spring.

National lamb yardings totalled 113,356 head last week, back 4% week-on-week and 41% lower than year-ago levels. New South Wales accounted for the majority of yardings at 46%, followed closely by Victoria at 45% then Western Australia at 8%. Lamb yardings have sustained an easing trend in recent weeks, as improved seasonal has seen producers hold onto stock and the availability of old season lambs start to shrink.

For the week ending 1 May, eastern states lamb slaughter totalled 271,413 head, back 7% on the previous week and 29% below year-ago levels. Trends in recent years have seen lamb slaughter ease at the end of May and remain subdued until October when spring lambs begin entering the market. Record prices in March this year also saw lamb yardings spike, as producers took advantage of the high returns, this could further compound and prolong the winter supply lull in 2020.

The store market has largely been bolstered by restocker competition in recent week, with restocker lamb prices remaining at historically high levels. On Tuesday 5 May, the National Livestock Reporting Service (NLRS) CV-19 national processor indicator was $199/head, easing slightly from week-ago levels, while the NLRS CV-19 national restocker indicator was reported at $162/head.


Lamb prices have reached record levels for two consecutive winters as a result of strong processor competition for a limited supply pool. Whilst, the progress of winter lamb supply will be pivotal to future price trends, any improvement in foodservice demand in key markets could add further support.

© Meat & Livestock Australia Limited, 2020

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