It’s a busy time at saleyards around the country as autumn arrives, with several classes of stock ramping up in supply. North Island weaner fairs are merging into South Island calf sales, boner cows are coming out in a flurry along with snow in the South Island and store lamb volume is slowly starting to creep up.
The North Island is heading into round two of beef weaner fairs and at Rangiuru steers sold on a slightly stronger market to results posted at the first fair. Heifer results were more mixed as medium types held but a firm hand on budgets meant that while the heifer calves were heavier this time round, prices were slightly softer.
Feilding tends to start a few weeks later than other yards but stretches out further into May, but this fair was held a week earlier than last year, and tallies were down to 750-head due to that fact. Prices followed the trend set at other yards.
South Island calf sales also got underway over the past week and, though it is still early days, they look to be traipsing a similar path to North Island fairs. The Owaka calf sale at Balclutha and the Mt Benger calf sale were among the front runners, and Rural Livestock agent Dennis Mullally said Mt Benger posted great results.
“Prices were up $60-$70 on last season for all classes, thanks to great spring-like growth and good margins made last year. Vendors were very happy with results,” Mullally said.
Not only are beef calves keeping South Island auctioneers busy, but boner cow numbers have surged in recent weeks. Temuka is the biggest trader of boner cows nationwide and so creates the best market to keep an eye on. The past two months have shown a big increase in supply at a total of nearly 2800, with one week of March still to go. It is not unusual for boner cow numbers to fluctuate between years, dependent on the season and schedule prices, but also adding to the tally this year is a higher than usual dry rate coming through at scanning.
Monthly tallies for the February-March period are still well off the pace of peak offloads in the 2015 and 2016 seasons, where around 4000-head were sent to sale over each of those periods. Peak levels are yet to come though as these are usually hit in April and May.
And not to forget the sheep pens that have been starting to gear up over the past few weeks at some yards. Stortford Lodge is yet to hit its straps as there are still lambs that are unable to be transported to sale due to roading issues, as has been the case at Matawhero.
To date, Feilding tallies have been at or below last year’s, which is reflective of the good season as well as the reducing national ewe flock. Feilding, and to a lesser degree Stortford Lodge, have been attracting heavier lambs to market as well.
This is a representation of the fact that good grass growth this season meant that there was not the typical rush to offload younger lambs earlier on as paddocks dried out and grass disappeared. Another key decider of lambs taking a ticket to the yards has been the ability for them to achieve prices higher than what they would at the processors, relative to their weight and condition.
It is no secret that lambs have not yielded the best this year, especially in those regions that have had a wet summer that lacked sunshine, and the saleyards have provided a good alternative to sending to the processors. South Island yards also had a lift in throughput last week as Temuka yarded nearly 5000 while Canterbury Park reached 2800. Coalgate advertised just over 3100 store lambs.
As autumn continues to flow into winter, we can expect to see livestock classes stick to these trends, before farmers hunker down for what we hope will be a kind winter.
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.