Buyers with fixed budgets set the tone of the annual 2-tooth ewe fair at Temuka with the feature line standing heads up above the average.
“Purchasers bought in a tight line. The feature line of the day was an exception, otherwise it would be described as a good average given where the sheep industry is at,” PGG Wrightson auctioneer Rod Sands said.
In saying that, Sands said the sale did exceed expectations for some.
“I was hopeful of some prices $220-$230 but others were predicting we wouldn’t make $200.
“Expectation in the current environment did see a lot of farmers sitting on their hands as they bought on strict budgets.”
While the yarding of just over 5000 was about half that of last year, the quality of the young ewes offered was not compromised.
“It’s a sign of the times,” industry stalwart Peter Walsh said.
“The sheep industry is not what it used to be, it’s tough out there and that’s reflecting where the industry is at.
“To be a sheep farmer is not what it used to be, back in the day you worked hard and achieved well.
“Now you need to be a lot more diversified. Sheep alone won’t pull you through no matter how hard you work.”
The industry is also experiencing a generational change.
“People have lost interest in lambing; the young ones like to go in and buy and finish stock but with the number of breeding ewes continuing to dwindle where will the finishing stock come from?
“The wool factor is a big one. In the old days you could shear a good $40 to $50 off the ewe, now you are very lucky if you get $15.
“It’s a pretty despondent time to be a breeder, but if people want the finishing stock, we still need the breeders.
“Last year we had record export prices. Look at this year now.
“No one has the answers. If I did, I would be very happy to share with everyone,” Walsh said.
Meanwhile the feature sale of the day was a line of Border-Leicester-Romney first cross, again offered by South Canterbury breeder Bruce McDonald.
These quality bred ewes are bloodlines offered annually by McDonald who farms Douglassie, the property near Peel Forest that has been in the family since 1939.
“I like to think I have got a bit of breeding behind me,” he said.
While he used to be mixed sheep and beef, with deer and forestry too, at 75 years young McDonald is “cutting back now” and concentrating on the sheep, but still lambed 1300 ewes last year while his son leases some of the land now for dairy grazing.
McDonald’s feature lines were well supported by three regular buyers, which pushed prices up to $251.
The remainder of the BL-Romney breed including capital stock lines sold in a range of $141-$172 – $30 below year-ago levels.
Outside of these lines the tops of the other breeds, including Romney, Coopdale, Romney-Texel and Border Corriedale, averaged $150-$165 with buyers selective in what they bid on.
The best Romneys earned $158-$165, though the majority fetched $115-$149. The bulk of the Texel and Texel-Romney were secured for $153-$172, Coopdales $134-$161, while a small line of Suffolk made it just above the $200 mark to $202.
Digging deep to pay the top price for the feature line of the day was Gordon Duthie who farms in partnership with his wife Sharon on their 162 hectare property at Mayfield in Mid Canterbury.
“We have always been sheep farmers. If want to breed the best we need to buy the best. We usually buy here and we have had these [McDonald’s] before,” the couple said of paying the top dollars for their 2-tooths.
The couple have two sons, but neither is interested in going farming.
“So we will stay in meantime. It’s a case of riding the lows and celebrating the highs, when you can.
“While we lambed 1250 ewes last year, due to our age, we are slowly dropping in ewe numbers and going more beef cattle.”