Meat & Livestock News

Seasonal Trends and Supply Surge Impact Sheep Prices in 2024


  • Heavy lamb prices reached 786¢/kg (cwt) at the start of 2024, the highest since January 2023, but are showing signs of easing, similar to the previous year’s trend.
  • A 13% increase in yardings compared to last year has introduced more supply into the market, leading to more discerning buyers and downward pressure on prices.
  • The scarcity of skilled shearers has made unshorn lambs less desirable at saleyards, as it complicates assessing their physical condition and managing weight for optimal meat production.

The sheep market in 2024 has seen a robust beginning, with heavy lamb prices peaking at 786¢/kg (carcass weight) in early March, marking a significant recovery from the lowest price point in a decade. However, this initial surge is now showing signs of a gradual decline, nearly 20% lower compared to the same period last year, indicating a return to the volatile and fluctuating market conditions experienced previously.

This period traditionally sees an influx of lambs born in the previous winter, having grown over the spring and summer months. While a seasonal price adjustment is anticipated, the market has witnessed a notable 13% increase in yardings from the same time last year.

This surge in supply has led to buyers becoming more selective, exerting downward pressure on prices. The heightened scrutiny at saleyards focuses on the physical attributes of lambs, impacting their market value.

Compounding the market’s challenges is the current scarcity of skilled shearers. This shortage has made it difficult for sellers to present their lambs in optimal condition, as unshorn lambs complicate the assessment of their physical state and the management of their weight gain for meat production. 

Consequently, buyers are offering discounts on unshorn lambs, reflecting the additional costs and efforts required for shearing. This situation has rendered unshorn lambs less attractive to certain buyers at saleyards.