Sheep market – December update - Elders Rural Services

Sheep market – December update

At a glance

  • Supply of lambs in southern states weighed on prices in early November, however demand remains high as unprecedented spring conditions stretch into summer.

Market fundamentals

Southern lamb yardings surged higher in November. In Victoria the monthly average yarding volume increased by over 50 per cent (pc) compared to October. Unprecedented spring conditions led to a delay in supply of around four weeks in Victoria and the lower South East region of South Australia.

National trade lamb prices recorded a 1.2 pc increase compared to a month ago with most states holding steady after a decline early in November.

As expected, a higher starting price at the beginning of spring across most states has meant year-on-year prices are tracking between 6.6 to 19.6 pc higher compared to the same period in 2020 (refer to the price table below).

The Elders Weather outlook for December forecasts multiple cold fronts across southern and eastern Australia from 15 to 19 December, 22 to 26 December and 2 to 6 January. The cold fronts are expected to bring widespread rain. In Western Australia (WA), the strongest cold fronts will start from 11 to 15 December, 23 to 27 December and 5 to 9 January.

You can read about some of the significant sales in our latest edition of Bidders, winners and records.

Graph showing how national trade lamb prices declined in early November.


  • Seasonal conditions remain conducive for re-stocking.
  • Prolonged spring conditions offer flexibility in selling times.


  • Supply in southern regions will continue to increase.
  • Processor capacity remains limited.

From the field

Southern South Australia

“The season continues to produce favourable conditions for feed and strong demand for sheep and lambs has led to good overall prices.

“During November Naracoorte hosted the two day annual blue ribbon first cross ewe sales which saw 50,000 ewes and lambs on offer achieving a national record for 1.5 year old first-cross ewes at $538/hd. The ewe lamb sale continued the momentum in the following week reaching $390/hd reflecting strong demand and confidence in the season.

“The lower south-east region is only mid-way through selling and numbers are expected to remain solid over the coming weeks and into early 2022.” – Laryn Gogel, Elders Livestock Manager.

Western Australia

“The number of sheep and lambs offered is starting to drop off, however increased levels of enquiry from eastern Australia are expected over the coming weeks, driven by favourable seasonal conditions. Locally, we are starting to see sheep filter out to the eastern wheatbelt as farmers look to make the most of a successful crop. Processing challenges remain a factor in the market as several processors are restricted by staff availability.

“Changes to live export licensing have boosted confidence in this sector of the market with two ships loading and more expected in the new year, live export numbers have almost halved in 2021.” – Dean Hubbard, Elders Livestock Manager. 

Victoria and Riverina

“Southern Victoria has had unprecedented spring conditions which will extend into summer. Regular rainfall has led to an abundance of feed which has aided confidence and offered multiple options for selling sheep and lambs. However, grass is reaching a point where its fattening quality begins to decline.

“Northern Victoria lamb prices have eased under the weight of supply however southern markets have picked up driven by quality. Restocker demand has eased slightly driven by increased supply of lambs and a late harvest preventing traders from having the space to fatten lambs over summer. This constraint will ease in the new year.” – Matt Tinkler, Elders Livestock Manager.

New South Wales

“Southern sheep and lamb offerings were solid during November, however a lack of capacity in processing facilities has had an impact on price. As Christmas approaches it’s expected that processor capacity will be even tighter, which could lead to a difficult decision regarding selling lambs.

“Despite excellent feed availability, wet summers can make managing sheep difficult due to fly strike, an issue which is made more complex by a shortage of shearers. Lambs are already being sold with wool on and if kept over summer will need shearing to help manage fly strike.

“Those impacted by flooding in parts of the state will have limited choices in regard to buying and selling stock. The likely outcome will be to wait and see what the market does once flood waters recede.” – Nik Hannaford, Elders Livestock Manager.

View upcoming sheep sales

Market indicators

Table contains lamb and mutton price comparisons.
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.

*The forecast shown on the graph is derived from an auto regression model (ARIMA) which was used to generate the high and low 68pc confidence interval. The ARIMA model draws on data from 2016 to now. The model is purely mathematical and should only be used as a guide for where prices could land in the next two months.

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.

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