The Livestock Marketing Information Center released Analysis and Comments on the American sheep flock this week and said two “unusual developments could factor into the lamb market calculus during the next 12 to 24 months.”
“First, the growth rate of American lamb and mutton imports might moderate significantly as the Australian flock has downsized due to drought, and China imports more-and-more of all animal-based proteins driven by the African Swine Fever epidemic inducing reductions in their pork production,” read the report. “However, in the near-term, the China story has a new dimension of uncertainty with the Novel coronavirus epicenter in Wuhan, China. Second, 2020 brings on line both opportunities and potential disruptions to the sector – the opening of a modern, federally inspected lamb packing plant in Colorado (Colorado Lamb Processors near the town of Brush). That state-of-the-art plant is scheduled to begin harvesting animals late in the first quarter of the year, or early in the second.”
“In the face of the developments listed above, for the next two years, annual changes in the supply of American lambs are expected to be rather modest. Importantly, the two unusual developments described above, provide uncertainty regarding how much U.S. prices increase and how volatile markets are.”
However, the report concludes with some promising news.
“Overall, for the first three quarters of 2020, look for lamb prices (slaughter and feeder) to be at or above 2019. For slaughter lambs, the largest percentage year-over-year gain is expected to be in the first quarter. The second quarter might bring the biggest gain from 2019 for feeder lambs. Note that the first quarter of 2019 had very low slaughter lamb prices compared to the balance of that year. Even though lamb supplies should remain tight during the fourth quarter, the LMIC price forecast incorporates some pressure from competing meats, especially huge pork supplies. Still, lamb prices that quarter might be very close to 2019.”