Monday, February 26, 2024

Brisk bidding as dry bites on-farm lamb sales 

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Gallery does its bit after high country sales brought forward.
Reading Time: 4 minutes

By Annette Scott and Neal Wallace

The dry kicked in back in December when just 12mm of rain fell for the month, making conditions difficult for Ashburton high country farmers leading into their on-farm lamb sales. 

The quality of the lambs wasn’t quite where farmers would have liked it to be, and with lamb feed depleted and no rain, the annual sales were brought forward a week.

“We didn’t get the rain we needed in December and while we got rain last week it didn’t do anything for these lambs we have yarded for sale today,” Arrowsmith Station farm manager Alan McIntyre said.

Arrowsmith offered 2000 mixed sex Poll Dorset-Merino cross lambs at its 13th annual sale.

“I am pleasantly surprised at what has been achieved. We knew we would be down on last year, that’s a reflection of the sheep industry in general,” McIntyre said.

“The prices today are better than I expected given the market price crash and then the dry season adding salt to the wound.”

In an exceedingly rare event, Arrowsmith is buying in baleage.

“Winter feed has suffered in the dry, it’s unheard of up here but we are buying in baleage. 

“We’re back to the summers of old. It’s going to be a tough winter I reckon,” McIntyre said.

Arrowsmith farm manager Alan McIntyre says prices for his lambs were better than expected.

The tops of the Poll Dorset-Merino mix-sex lambs fetched $141 down to $134 while lighter types sold at $114. Wether lambs ranged from $88 downwards to $65 while the ewe lambs were in the market from $80-$72.

Said neighbouring Castle Ridge owner Paul Harmer, “We put up the best we could.”

The lambs were not as big as usual but he too was pleasantly surprised with the sale outcome.

“This result is better than expected given the challenging season. The lambs are back a little but sold surprisingly well.”

There was confidence in the buying gallery.

“We had regular buyers back. They know the lambs will do all right; they keep coming back.”

Harmer said the biggest challenge going forward is the winter feed.

“We have had winter feed in the ground for five weeks and it’s only just struck now with the rain this week. We have had to re-drill ryecorn to be sure we have winter feed.”

Castle Ridge sold 8000 Poll Dorset cross lambs with the tops of the wethers making $140, second and third cuts selling from $127-$115 and lighter types $98-$84. The tops of the ewe lambs sold from $138 down to $124, with medium types going for $107-$90 and lighter sorts $83-$76.  

Down the road Mt Possession sold 9000 lambs in its annual line-up, making farm manager Ryan Hussey “pretty happy”.

“We held up well given the conditions. We had good lamb feed early but it’s been dry this last couple of months and we run out of tucker. We have still sold ahead of expectation.

“Some years we can hold back the lighter lambs but this year was not an option, everything was yarded for sale.”

The tops of the Suffolk cross black face crypt lambs ranged from $120 down to $104 with medium types $89-$81 and light $66. Ewe lambs topped $118 selling down to $76. Halfbred wether lambs sold from $100 to $75 with smaller lambs selling at $61. A line of halfbred annual draft ewes sold for $94.

A small but powerful buyer gallery, many from the south, lifted the market at the annual Double Hill Station sale in the Rakaia Gorge.

PGG Wrightson livestock auctioneer Joe Higgins said local buyers competing with the good contingent from the south pushed the average sale price to an estimated $2.80/kg with the top price of the day at $126 for Suffolk cross mix sex lambs, while the top of the Perendale lines fetched $122.

Castle Ridge sale day was typical of the hot and dry January weather in the region.

Meanwhile, bumper grass growth in Southland has underpin better than expected crossbred store lamb prices at lower South Island sales.

John Duffy, PGG Wrightson’s Otago regional livestock manager, said compared to current prime lamb schedules, store prices and demand were higher than expected.

Prices paid at recent on-farm sales averaged $83-$84/head, with the best lambs, those ready to be killed, making $117/head. Other store lambs made $60 to $70/head.

Buyers came from Southland and South Canterbury.

Duffy said there was a noticeable increase in demand for lambs offered by established store lamb breeders and also those offering larger lines, up to 1200 head.

PGG Wrightson Southland livestock manager Andrew Martin said the abundance of feed has underpinned what he calls a solid season, with demand outstripping supply.

Good quality store lambs are selling for $95-$100/head and small healthy lambs $50/head. He said buyers are keenest for lambs priced $80-$90/head.

Most buyers were from within Southland.

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