National lamb slaughter hit 2.16 million head in May, the third highest monthly total on record.
Since then, the anticipated lamb shortage has appeared, with June slaughter back 33% month-on-month and 23% on year-ago levels.
The 1.46 million head slaughtered in June was the lowest monthly total since January 2012.
The difficulty processors are having maintaining supply has been evident, with national saleyard prices for trade and heavy weight lambs both rising above 950¢/kg carcase weight (cwt), before winter shut downs and scaling back of processing at several plants has alleviated some of the price pressure.
Despite easing nearly 100¢ since mid-July, the national trade lamb indicator was still 855¢/kg cwt on Tuesday, up 81¢ year-on-year.
The average carcase weights of lambs being processed also rose to record levels, a factor which has contributed to the extremely high dollar-per-head prices that have been seen in saleyards.
The premium paid for heavy lambs has encouraged producers, despite the challenging conditions, to grow their lambs to heavier weights.
In 2018, when lamb slaughter eased in winter and early spring, processors were able to supplement throughput by processing mutton.
Older sheep were well supplied as producers felt the worst of winter and destocked.
Elevated sheep slaughter during the first 6 months, will limited the supply of available mutton during spring, as will the impact of improving conditions in the south.
With fewer grown sheep available for slaughter and a shortage of lambs, mutton prices also reached record prices of over 600¢/kg cwt in July.
On Tuesday the national saleyard mutton indicator was trading at 560¢/kg cwt, up 133¢ on year-ago levels.