Seemingly against all odds, the North Island store cattle market has ploughed on through the rain, mud, snow and wind and seems to be ready for the fast approaching spring market season.
Through winter, farmers tend to hold off as long as they can to sell stock, but those that have had to offload have done so into what has been a resilient market considering all aspects that have tried to work against it.
Demand for quality, short-term cattle has managed to sustain any blows thrown at it, and as prices have held up those who can enter the market early may have opted to do that, knowing that there is the potential for prices to climb even further once spring hits.
Not every beast is in demand, though – the focus is very much on the better-bred and forward moving cattle, something not everyone has to offer, and most sale yards are offering up their fair share of lesser quality lines, especially as the paddock disappears under water in some regions. It is still a bit early for great interest in younger cattle too, but that will come.
The market for R2 dairy-beef steers at Northland and Waikato sale yards has been steady throughout the winter months as, even though those months have been wet and wild, they have also been relatively mild which has kept grass ticking over.
At Wellsford, dairy-beef steers in the 425-475kg range have enjoyed a positive run since late April.
This goes against the normal pattern of prices dropping away at this time of year before they pick up again at the spring sales, which are held in the first few weeks of August.
Currently, this weight range is averaging $3.05/kg, which is well up on last year and the five-year average, and is a level that was not reached until early September last year.
Frankton sales have followed a similar pattern and R2 dairy-beef steers in the 375-475kg range have hovered around $3.00/kg for the last month, which is also a few weeks ahead of last year.
Cattle throughput has been down at Rangiuru, Feilding, Stortford Lodge and Taranaki over the past few sales and, aside from a few feature lines, these yardings have mainly consisted of small winter-offloads.
But, like the other yards, the quality cattle have sold at spring levels of last year and so the question will be being asked – will prices continue to climb once a spring grass market kicks in, or will the current levels remain?
The expectation is that the market should continue to see upside if the current overseas demand and favourable schedule prices levels continue, though limited processor space will mean that farmers cannot re-enter the market until finished stock are offloaded and that may impact on demand for the spring sales.
This article was written by AgriHQ analyst Suz Bremner. Suz leads the AgriHQ LivestockEye team, including data collectors who are tasked with being on the ground at sale yards throughout the country. Subscribe to AgriHQ reports here.