Findings from a recent survey have shown that some Australian lamb producers retained their lambs in anticipation of higher prices in 2024.

This was revealed by the joint Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) and Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) sheep producer intentions survey (SPIS) .

The SPIS is conducted twice a year, and covers three main areas:

  • Flock population and demographics to provide a breakdown of breeding ewes and lambs (pending survey wave);
  • Sheepmeat and wool supply information, along with producer production intentions for sales and changes to production practices;
  • Producer sentiment towards the sheepmeat and wool sectors.

It showed that some producers were prompted to keep their lambs in 2023, due to the lamb prices being “lower than anticipated” along with weather conditions that also affected lamb performance and hindered their ability to reach target weights.

Results from the survey indicated that the majority of Australian lamb producers made changes to their planned 2023 sales volumes.

Only 46% of producers sold the number of lambs they had anticipated and 40% of producers sold fewer lambs than expected, citing prices and weather as the primary reasons.

Conversely, 14% of producers sold more lambs in 2023 than expected, noting weather conditions were more suitable to sell earlier, higher-than-expected lamb numbers, and “intentions to de-stock due to anticipated declining conditions in 2024”, the survey revealed.

Survey feedback suggests that most unsold Australian lambs in 2023 are planned to be sent to market in 2024, as evidenced by peak yardings and sustained elevated slaughter in the first months of 2024.

Forecasted sales in the first six months of 2024 were also readjusted from 10.36m to 12.80m head to reflect this timeline shift.

Meanwhile, the scarcity of skilled shearers in today’s market landscape is currently posing challenges in the Australian lamb trade.

According to analysis from MLA, leaving lambs unshorn can render it difficult to assess their physical condition and manage weight gain for optimal meat production.

Consequently, MLA research has shown interested buyers are offering discounts on unshorn lambs due to the additional cost and effort required for shearing, rendering them less desirable at saleyards for certain buyers.