Prime lambs have recorded record highs and the talk is $9/kg could well be on the table.

With the shorn premium added in a large range of prices are available between $8.40/kg and $8.60/kg.

Talk of further increases beyond the $9/kg mark may well be wishful thinking, but for most farmers well used to the rollercoaster ride in the sheepmeat industry, the current level is being well received.

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Independent Whanganui livestock broker and industry commentator David Cotton has already asked the obvious question, "How high can the schedule go?"

"Given the average killing weight lambs close to 20kg are fetching $174 a head with the heavier lines reaching $200 or more," Cotton said.

"Mutton prices are also at record levels at $5.30/kg/ $5.50/kg. It wasn't that long ago ewes were under $3/kg and lambs $5.30/kg. It just goes to show how high they have risen."

These higher prices have been reflected in the saleyards in the store stock market.

Store lambs are averaging better than $4/kg liveweight and a ewe with a lamb at foot $100-$130 a head.

"That's not a bad return on a six-week-old lamb. Ewes with two lambs at foot are fetching $390. Lamb traders are having their best year ever with margins of $80 to $120 a head - they're having an absolute royaler. The Government's plan to plant a billion trees might be hard to achieve with sheep prices like they are," Cotton said.

The concern is the rollercoaster nature of the sheepmeat industry.

"The last time we hit an $8/kg high was in 2011 and the following year it plummeted down to $4.50/kg."


The prime cattle market has hit the $6/kg mark, a magic figure that should bring cattle out of winter to be killed.

"The bull schedule at $5.50/kg is being helped by the lower New Zealand dollar against the greenback. The store cattle market is holding up well considering how wet it has been," Cotton said.