To say it was a massive May at Temuka would be an understatement.
Typically, May is one of the biggest months of the year for throughput, but in 2023 total tallies have achieved a milestone, cracking over 51,000 store lambs.
This sets a record for the number of store lambs trotting through Temuka for the month, with the weekly average 4000 more than last year at 10,300.
The last time tallies in May got remotely close to this level was in 2019 where they totalled 40,700.
While big sales are a common theme for this time of year, numbers must run out soon and agents are suggesting the recent sale may have been the last really large store lamb tally before winter.
So why have there been such significant tallies this month?
Generally speaking, most farms would be fairly tidy on their winter stocking rates and hunkering down for winter by now.
But this year has been noticeably different. The summer season was generous compared to other years. Grass kept on growing and small amounts of rainfall kept good covers all the way through, and growth ticked over nicely.
Though some regions did get dry, they managed to avoid drought and farmers were able to hold onto a few more lambs than they usually would.
South Otago and Southland in particular usually offload large numbers a lot earlier in the year, when pressure comes on feed conditions.
This season, though, paddocks and pasture growth have allowed for more lambs to stay on longer and gain some weight.
It is worth noting that this month at least half of the store lamb tallies have been made up by South Otago lambs, which have come out three to four weeks later than they have done in previous years.
The summer was followed up by what some are describing as the best autumn ever, and it seems to just keep on giving, adding further fuel to the already hot fire in the store lamb market.
Even now, in the closing stages of May and early June, the weather is warm and kind enough to keep the grass growing, meaning prices have remained strong and consistent throughout.
The average price, calculated using AgriHQ data, for the opening sale at Temuka this month was $3.99/kg liveweight and peaked mid-May at $4.12/kg.
Some changes in quality deviated the average from here but considering the large numbers and the weeks drawing closer to winter, returns settled at a very respectable closing average for May at $3.98/kg.
Last year, the store lamb market peaked in the final week of June at $4.48/kg.
The release of a $9/kg lamb contract earlier in May for September boosted buyers’ confidence, but over the past week AgriHQ analysts have sensed some doubt coming in.
Global markets are weakening and China in particular has not rebounded from its Covid restrictions as strongly as anticipated.
The decreased demand is putting pressure on meat companies to meet international markets through price adjustments.
Recent schedule lifts have been procurement driven, with some exchange rate support, rather than from positive movement overseas.
So with one month to go until the market usually peaks and tallies are expected to decline, it will be interesting to see whether this year’s average per kilogram return reaches or exceeds the same heights.
This article was written by AgriHQ analyst Sarah Hilhorst. Sarah’s reports provide key insights into what makes our sheep and beef markets tick. Subscribe to AgriHQ reports here.