Sheep market – February 2022 update - Elders Rural Services

Sheep market – February 2022 update

At a glance

  • Staff shortages from COVID-19 have impacted markets, however prices have remained resilient due to strategic management and an ability to hold stock in a high feed environment.
  • Flooding rains in pastoral districts of South Australia have set up a promising 2022 but high humidity has created a perfect scenario for flystrike ahead of shearing.

Market fundamentals

Southern lamb yardings were below average in January. In Tasmania the monthly average yarding volume decreased by 54.8 per cent (pc) compared to January 2021. Victoria following the same trend, down 29.5pc. Staff shortages in processing facilities caused a backlog, prompting sellers to hold back sheep and lambs in a strategic move to minimise the potential impact on price.

National trade lamb prices recorded a 7.5 pc increase compared to a month ago with most states holding firm. Modest decreases in price were evident in Western Australia and Tasmania.

The Elders Weather outlook forecasts multiple cold fronts across southern and eastern Australia from 6 to 15 February. The cold fronts are expected to bring widespread rain originating from the tropics. In Western Australia (WA), the strongest cold fronts will start from 3 to 7 February and again from 12 to 16.

graph showing National trade lamb prices remain flat.
Graph showing National trade lamb prices remain flat.


  • Seasonal conditions remain conducive for re-stocking.


  • Processor capacity will continue to be disrupted by COVID-19.

From the field

South Australia

“Staff shortages in both abattoirs and saleyards due to COVID-19 have had an impact on throughput, however, strategic management of the supply of sheep and lambs coming to market has helped mitigate short term declines in prices. While the issue of staffing won’t dissipate completely, it’s expected that kill capacity will begin to lift in coming weeks which is good news for prices.

“Light lambs bound for the paddock recorded strong prices of around $120-180/head in January, with buyer confidence being driven by positive seasonal conditions. Over the coming weeks graziers will be looking for more rainfall to establish perennial pastures, but overall confidence in the region remains high.”  – Laryn Gogel, Elders Southern South Australia Livestock Manager.

“We have seen historically high rainfall during mid to late January for the north-west and some significant rains through the north-east pastoral districts of the state. Over the past few months most areas have received at least 125mm of rain, with parts of the north-west receiving well in excess of 300mm. This has set up the pastoral areas of the state for an excellent feed year in 2022 and many dams and water catchments are at peak levels, offering a stress-free year ahead when it comes to water.

“The main concerns appear to be around potential fly-waves through these areas, particularly given the unseasonal humidity generated by the rains during the summer months. Many producers through the north-west and pastoral regions are approaching their annual shearing (February to April), so hopefully the flies don’t cause too much trouble prior to shearers arriving, who in turn have been impacted by flood waters that are restricting their travel, as well as the obvious “shearing holdups” caused by wet sheep.

“The large amount of rain will likely lead to a significant reduction in “sell off” numbers given the season now allows pastoralists to retain sheep, which will potentially lead to greater lambing numbers in autumn. As a result, many stations in the north-west pastoral district could be back to their targeted/average stocking rates. While north-east pastoralists will have a chance to at least start their rebuild around breeding numbers, which were depleted significantly over the past three to six very dry years.” – Damien Webb, Elders Northern South Australia Livestock Manager

Victoria and Riverina

“Southern sheep markets have experienced a degree of disruption in processing time, largely due to staff shortages in boning facilities, however the issue is resolving. Thankfully, for most producers this didn’t cause too much concern given the ability to continue grazing stock in what has been a favourable summer for feed.

“Deniliquin store sale saw 30,000 sheep offered, with high prices paid for premium quality ewes selling to $350/hd and young ewes to $330/hd. However, prices weren’t so hot for lower quality sheep, presenting a buying opportunity at a time where the sheep market remains poised to take advantage of favourable seasonal conditions.”– Matt Tinkler, Elders Livestock Manager.

Market indicators

Table showing lamb and mutton price comparisons.
Table showing 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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