I KID EWE NOT: Lambs reach record high at Warwick saleyards
SALE agents were "gobsmacked" as lambs reached never seen prices at the Warwick Saleyards on Wednesday, prompting some to wonder whether buyers might be paying an elusive $300 for a prime lamb before it becomes too dear for the dinner table.
Warwick-based meat wholesaler Pat McMahon said he never thought he would ever have to pay $230 for prime lambs, but a region-wide shortage was pushing prices up to record levels.
Forced to cough up to maintain his reputation for quality meat, Mr McMahon took home a pen of 13 lambs for the highest price in the history of Warwick Saleyards.
The grain-fed lambs from Stanthorpe's Rob and Marg Tulloch weighed 47.9kg.
Mr McMahon said there had been a $1-2 rise in lamb wholesale prices per kilo in a short space of time, but the demand from retailers was still strong.
"I find it really surprising that retailers still keep buying it as these prices go up," he said.
The Warwick-based wholesaler supplies meat to butchers all around southeast Queensland, but thinks the spike could see lamb chopped off the dinner menu.
"Beef, pork and chicken are all a lot cheaper than what lamb is and I think lamb will price itself off the table," he said.
Carey Bros Meats manager Steve Turnbull said there had been a noticeable change in customer trends.
"You do notice we can't sell as much because it is so expensive," Mr Turnbull said.
According to Warwick livestock agent Ross Ellis, the price hike has been spurred on by a growing shortage of prime lambs across the region as drought takes its toll on the market.
He said local butchers were now having to compete with export markets for heavier lambs as smaller stock dip in quality.
"Most of the time we want smaller lambs but they are just not finished in time because of the dry season we've had," Mr Turnbull said.
David Friend, the agent who sold the record pen, said similar trends we occurring across the country.
He said more buyers were coming to Warwick from further afield because of shortages in other regions.
In Dubbo, lambs reached a record $277 on Tuesday and other saleyards have been reporting similar prices.
Agents, wholesalers and vendors will wait with bated breath to see where prices peak.
But at least some will continue to ride the high while it lasts.
"It was a day where the vendors were the only ones smiling but it's good to see them have a win in the dry times," Mr Ellis said.