Sheep market update - January 2024


The latest insights and information on the Australian sheep market as of January 2024.

Market fundamentals

National trade lamb prices increased by around 35 per cent (pc) in December - a welcome relief to producers. At a state level there was support in Western Australia, with prices increasing by almost 24 pc compared to the previous month. Other states also rallied, with prices up between 6.4 and 16.4 pc, with an exception in Queensland which was down by 11 pc. The national trade lamb indicator is still 4.2 pc down from the same time last year.

National trade lamb prices jumped in December.

National mutton prices strengthened drastically, by almost 80 pc in December. At state level, prices also tended to gain significantly, with all states recording increases of between 14 and 53 pc. Victoria was a stand-out, with the mutton indicator increasing by nearly 53 pc compared to the previous month.

Graph showing national mutton indicator prices January 2024 National mutton prices strengthened significantly in December.

Read on for local conditions and commentary from Elders Livestock Managers.
For more livestock market analysis, visit our Livestock Now page.

From the field

“Recent rains over the northwest and northeast pastoral areas of South Australia have seen these areas set up for a positive summer and autumn period, with flush feed and more than adequate water supply on the majority of stations.

“This rain over the past two months coincides with joining periods and in the northwest, their annual summer and autumn shearings, pointing towards an expected positive lambing outcome.

“The ‘inside’ country has also seen significant rains over the past six weeks, with many stubbles seeing regrowth which on most occasions results in the ‘spraying out’ by croppers in an attempt to retain moisture for the upcoming autumn seeding programs.

“Unfortunately the rain has also washed out a lot of the goodness from the dry stubbles meaning many sheep and lambs aren’t performing as well as they might in most years.

“This leads to producers having to make the call on whether to ‘lock up’ lambs on feed, or market them as stores.  

“With grain prices at historically high levels, many producers have decided to market these stock as stores, which thankfully coincides with improved prices since the eastern states have received rainfall events over recent weeks and months.

“Thankfully we have seen increased mutton and lamb prices off the backend of these weather events and the declining sale numbers which also coincide with the reduced back log by processors.

“We are seeing mutton prices basically 2 to 3 times higher than they were in late spring, with some processors paying in excess of $3.00 per kg for suitable mutton.

“At the same time we are seeing quality trade and heavy lambs pushing either side of the $7.00 per kg rate over the hooks, and in cases throughout the saleyards and via supermarkets prices well north of $7.50 per kg.” - Damien Webb, State Livestock Manager, northern South Australia.

Learn how to assess stubble for grazing suitability. 

“We are seeing a lift in sheep markets at the moment, coming off the back of a terrific season. 

“There are patches up here that haven’t got the rain, but there is a lot of country that is enjoying a good season, and hopefully those gaps will start to fill in.” - Garry Cartwright, State Livestock Manager, southern Queensland. 

“The narrative in Western Australia has certainly turned for the positive in the last six to eight weeks. 

“We are receiving a lot of enquiries for sheep and cattle coming out of the east, and we are steadily seeing improvements for growers in prices. The sheep market in particular has moved significantly.” - Dean Hubbard, State Livestock Manager, Western Australia.

Market Indicators

Table contains lamb and mutton price comparisons.

Note: States without sufficient data for the current month or without data for a specific stock category will not appear in the table.

Sources: Price data reproduced courtesy of Meat & Livestock Australia Limited.

The information contained in this article is given for the purpose of providing general information only, and while Elders has exercised reasonable care, skill and diligence in its preparation, many factors (including environmental and seasonal) can impact its accuracy and currency. Accordingly, the information should not be relied upon under any circumstances and Elders assumes no liability for any loss consequently suffered. If you would like to speak to someone for tailored advice relating to any of the matters referred to in this article, please contact Elders.