Saturday, December 9, 2023

Nightmare journey to get stock to sale

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Last year’s flurry of farm sales to foresters has reached its next phase: getting the stock off the farms – and it hasn’t been pretty.
The dust has settled somewhat on farm sales to forestry, says Suz Bremner, but for many such as Huiarua Station, ‘it is too little too late’.
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One of the many issues that farmers in cyclone- and flood-affected regions have faced is getting stock off their properties, as roading and farming infrastructure have borne the brunt of the adverse weather. 

That may be to the processors or saleyards, or simply off to new homes following private sales. It seems unfairly timed, then, that capital stock breeding herds are finding themselves shipped from the hills they have grazed since the large stations were established, as they make way for pine trees. 

The sale of big stations to forestry over the past few years has been a contentious issue and now the trees are going in, meaning the stock must be out the gate. 

One of those properties is Huiarua Station, Tokomaru Bay, which sold last year. The farm lease that followed lapses on August 22 this year. 

It was one of four large-scale stations sold to forestry last year in the region, despite concerns voiced by farming groups. This has unfortunately become an all-too-familiar outcome as rising costs and high prices paid for properties such as these made it impossible for those wishing to farm to compete. 

The dust has settled somewhat on farm sales to forestry, but for many such as Huiarua Station, it is too little too late. 

Capital stock breeding ewes were still being farmed on Huiarua Station due to a lease agreement, but with the conclusion of the lease drawing near, the ewes have had to be shifted off. 

PGG Wrightson agent Tony Holden oversaw the process and said it has been a nightmare.

“It has taken almost two weeks of planning to get the ewes out and that was a delay due to access issues. They should have been sold a lot earlier and it ended up coming down to the wire as they are due to lamb and the pine trees are already being planted.”

The nearly 2000 breeding ewes were bound for the Stortford Lodge saleyards but needed to be walked some distance to meet the truck. They started the journey on Thursday, July 27, only to have to return to Huiarua Station due to the trucks being unable to get through. 

A second attempt was made on Sunday, July 30 and after a 17km walk they were then trucked to Central Hawke’s Bay for grazing and sold at Stortford Lodge last Wednesday. 

The delays meant that feed was in short supply and, though there was plenty of quality breeding through the ewes, it took its toll on their condition. They were presented to buyers in light to medium condition, which for some potential buyers that arrived at the yards was not what they were looking for. 

The ewes were in-lamb to Suffolk and Suftex rams from April 10 and had scanning percentages of 171%-181%. The main body of the consignment were drafted into age groups and line sizes mostly varied from 170 to 360 head. The 4-tooth and 6-tooth lines sold for $127-$142, which, relative to condition and current market environment, was a fair value. The top 4-year and mixed-age ewes returned $136-$137 and balance made $106-$120. 

Holden said there are still more ewes to come out from the station. “There are still around 2000 ewes left to sell, in similar condition to those offered at Stortford Lodge. Most are a month from lambing and will hopefully be sold in the near future.”

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.

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