Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Stock make it through with a tale to tell

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The Bailey bridge is in place, the flood-ravaged road has re-opened, and Wairoa livestock was welcomed back to Stortford Lodge on Wednesday after months of disruption.
With the road only open from 7am to 6pm, Kiwi Transport has to pick calves up very early on sale day to allow enough time to get through the gorge and to the saleyards.
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Welcome back, Wairoa.

Three months after Cyclone Gabrielle rendered the Napier-Wairoa Road impassable, the road has finally reopened, and Wairoa livestock was welcomed back to the Stortford Lodge saleyards on Wednesday. This was a momentous occasion and one step closer to a new normal, though access issues on farm do continue to be a huge challenge for farmers.

Arawood Farm had one of the first stock trucks over the new Bailey bridge at Waikare, to get their annual draft weaner Angus steers to sale, and Redshaw Livestock agent Will Maxwell said it was exactly the way forward that the communities needed.

“There was a big sense of relief from the communities that the road is now re-opened. While it is only a temporary solution it is much better than the alternative. Not only did the road closure impact farmers getting stock out, it has also been a huge challenge for the stock truck drivers, who have had to do two- to three-day round trips up until now.”

Not only did roading logistics need to be worked around, Maxwell said the management of the calves on farm was a challenge.

“It was originally said that the road would be open at the end of April and so, in preparation for the steer calves to go then, the heifer calves were weaned and steers kept on the cows, just in case that didn’t happen. And of course it didn’t, so the steers remained with the cows until the night before the recent sale.”

As the road is only open from 7am to 6pm, the calves had to be picked up very early on sale day by Kiwi Transport, to allow enough time to get to the yards. 

The 70 calves were drafted into two lines and the top cut weighed close to 300kg and sold for $1125, while the second cut were 254kg and $1075.

In a typical year, the calves would usually come to the first Stortford Lodge weaner fair in March and historically averaged 260-265kg. There was the option to sell the calves on the property prior to the reopening of the road, but the freight charges that would have been incurred meant that was not a viable option for buyers.

Out in the Stortford Lodge sheep pens, some lines of lambs also had adventures to relate as they made their journey down from northern Hawke’s Bay.

 Some of the ewe lambs yarded came from Papuni Station, Ruakituri and Mangatawhiti Station, Ohuka and were just the start of the offload out of the area. PGG Wrightson agent Ian Rissetto was also able to make the trip through to see the lambs sold and said the Papuni lambs in particular were well-travelled.

“It’s a huge challenge just to get stock even to the trucks. These lambs had to walk out about 12km from their farm. That was through other stations as the continuing access issues mean that trucks can’t get into several stations up that way. So, the lambs must be walked to where they can get a truck in.”

Rissetto said the season had a saving grace: “Since there has been plenty of feed around, northern Hawke’s Bay farmers have actually been able to finish more of the male lambs than they usually would. And it has meant that what is coming to market now is a lot heavier than what would usually be offered. So that at least is a silver lining for the farmers.”

And the extra weight had a positive influence on prices at auction as the Papuni Station ewe lambs sold for $130-$139 and Mangatawhiti Station, $128-$148.

Now that the road and market have been tested by these trailblazers, more store stock are expected to make the journey over the coming months. 

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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