Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Strong trends for first weaner fairs

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A thriving grass market has translated into brisk trading at the first of the fairs, though the swift arrival of the dry may test this demand.
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Buyer demand at the first beef weaner fairs has been strong. A much larger proportion of cattle have been making four figures, driven by firm weights and sufficient turnout in the rostrums of the major saleyards. 

This year’s growing season has been comparable to early 2023’s, resulting in similar to better weights recorded at most early fairs. 

The quick onset of dryness heading into April in eastern parts of the South Island, Northland, and eastern regions of the North Island may test the depth of this demand as buyers quickly fill their quota and further weaner fairs commence. 

As a whole, demand across classes has been varied. The general value of steers at auction has firmed, especially for exotic types, while at Stortford Lodge the market for heifers was steady to slightly softer this year. 

Similar reports of a steady-to-softer heifer market came from Wellsford, where the exceptional offering of heifers last year proved a tough standard to beat. 

Starting in Northland, more than 10,000 of the earliest-born calves were sold in the first half of March. Buyers who made trips from all over the North Island were eager to secure weaners from these initial sales amid the lacklustre supply of R2 cattle available for purchase. 

The northernmost sale took place at Peria. Of the 2200 calves yarded, the exotic steers, 250-300kg, returned the best results as they made $1025-$1230. Lighter traditional steers, 220-280kg, made $814-$1036. 

Strong results were yielded for weaners offered at Kaikohe and Wellsford, with the average price of traditional steers and bulls firming last year’s results. 

The most noticeable change in this market dynamic for 2024 has been the value increase for exotic steers. At Stortford Lodge and Frankton, the average price for exotic steers increased by 14-18c/kg. 

There has been a noticeable lift in demand for heavier cattle, pushing up the per-kilogram price, and testing the bounds of per-head price on a weaner. 

The average value of weaner beef steers in the paddock this year for March is $4.00/kg. In 2023 the value for this month was the same. However, the price of R2 steers was 22c/kg more last year, and similarly, the scheduled price of prime steers was also 17c/kg ahead. 

It was a solid turnout at Rangiuru’s first fair and the results for calves were exceptional. The gallery was the largest seen in the rostrum in some time thanks to a thriving grass market. 

The average weight of beef options levelled at 257kg for steers and 230kg for heifers. For traditional steers, the average price jumped from $930 last year, to $1025. 

Traditional and exotic heifers were a closer reflection of 2023 calves, just 5kg heavier on average, they made $45 more. The second round of sales in Rangiuru lacked the robustness of demand to firm results. However, pens all sold to market expectations, and the ease in price was a relief for those in the market for a more reasonably priced calf. 

Taranaki held its first-run weaner fair, with all pens loaded to full capacity. However, the extended supply returned results that didn’t quite match expectations. The traditional steer average dropped by $140 to $870. 

The best of these were 285-333kg which reached $1000-$1100. Exotic steers had a slightly smaller average decrease of $100 to $925. Two lines of Simmental-cross and Charolais-cross, 282-335kg, took the top spot at $1250-$1295. 

In the South Island, calf sales are just starting to build momentum. However, there is a clear indication of a preference for lighter calves. The prolonged dry conditions devastating some Marlborough farms prompted an early calf sale in the region in late February, but support from North Island buyers helped to leave all parties satisfied. 

However, the latest round of sales, at both Blenheim and through Canterbury, have come back a step. Typically traditional weaner steers averaged around $3.80-$3.90/kg last week, with the heifers around $3.00/kg.

This article was written by AgriHQ analyst Alex Coddington. Subscribe to AgriHQ reports here.

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