Keeping up to date with all of the latest lamb market information is crucial. Here we have all the latest analysis and insight from our industry experts to help guide you through market movements and provide a clear, impartial view on what it all means. Lamb prices are expected to rise slightly in 2021-22 following the economic recovery in the US and the Middle East. These regions are Australia’s major lamb markets. However, mutton prices are expected to fall slightly due to weaker demand in China. Greater availability of meat in China, specifically pig meat, is expected to reduce demand for Australian mutton. Favourable seasonal conditions in the eastern states are expected to encourage graziers to continue rebuilding their flocks, rather than send their lambs and sheep to slaughter. Australian supply of lamb and mutton is therefore expected to remain subdued over 2021–22.
Like most livestock sectors in 2020 the impacts of COVID-19 have been challenging and the sheep and lamb industry is no exception. Disruptions from the pandemic led to lower slaughter levels during the second quarter, and the closure of a major slaughter facility in July has plagued the industry for most of 2020. Additional slaughter plant capacity is anticipated to alleviate slaughter disruptions from 2020. A new facility in Brush, CO is coming online with another slated to reopen in San Angelo, TX, both bringing new dynamics to the sector. The global pandemic will continue to be at the forefront for the sheep and lamb industry going into 2021. Recovery of the economy will be critical for the industry to recoup demand, which will be vital as the industry is expected to see improved production for 2021 and 2022.
Australia’s sheep meat exports are expected to recover from 428 kt in 2020–21 to 453 kt in 2021–22. This is due to stronger demand in the United States and the Middle East, which is offsetting weaker demand in China. In 2020-21, exports to the United States rose, while exports to China and the Middle East fell (Figure 2). In total, exports declined in 2020‑21 due to weak global demand during the COVID-19 pandemic, alongside tight Australian supply resulting from the domestic sheep flock rebuild. Exports to China are expected to remain subdued due to the anticipated recovery in China’s pig meat production and the consequent availability of meat in the country. Australian live sheep exports are forecast to rise in 2021–22, as economic growth rebounds in Middle Eastern countries.
Strong pasture growth in New South Wales is expected to encourage graziers in the state to rebuild their flocks. The August 2021 survey by Meat & Livestock Australia and Australian Wool Innovation suggested that New South Wales had the highest proportion of graziers who were looking to rebuild their flocks. Flock rebuilding in Western Australia is expected to be slower than in the eastern states following the transport of sheep to the eastern states in 2020.
Lamb/Sheep: Reported prices for lambs have been higher in the second and third quarter of 2021 than they have been in years. Unexpected high prices for lambs lead to increases in the forecasts for lamb prices for the remainder of 2021 and all of 2022. Lamb and mutton imports since quarter 2 of 2021 have been higher than expected. High lamb prices coupled with higher imports suggests that U.S. lamb demand has shifted up compared to last year. Higher domestic demand and prices will encourage increased imports of lamb and mutton.
Sheep and lamb slaughter for 2020 is expected to finish the year down 3.5% at 2.241 million head, the lowest level since 2016 (2.238 million head). Weights have also moderated slightly lower (down 1.8%) for the year which will push lamb production down 5.3% to 140.7 million pounds. As the issues of 2020 pass, 2021 is forecast to see improved slaughter numbers with a 1.4% increase to 2.272 million head and combined with a marginal improvement in weights (up 0.8%) will give lamb production a 2.1% boost to 143.7 million pounds. Similar growth is forecast for 2022 with slaughter up 1.2% to 2.3 million head and lamb production climbing an additional 2.3% to 147 million pounds.
Market Lamb Prices 2021
Feeder lamb prices are expected to remain at similar levels to prior years ranging from $177 to $187 per cwt in 2021 and $177 to $192 per cwt.