Full-shedding Wiltshire ewe prices reached new heights at the Glenbrae Wiltshire dispersal sale as farmers showed they are ready and willing to make big bids to counter the growing cost of wool, as well as reduce labour intensity. The top pen traded was 296 2-tooth ewes, which reached $530, but most top lines sold for $400-$500 per head.
The returns were pleasing for vendor Mary Taylor but it was a bittersweet occasion and the end of a very significant journey: 28 years ago, Pōrangahau farmers Taylor and her late husband Martin wanted an easier farming life. Along with son Daniel, they took the plunge into the then relatively unknown world of Wiltshire sheep, buying in cast-for-age ewes initially and building their flock to what it is today – Glenbrae Wiltshire, a full-shedding flock to be proud of.
And pride was one thing that stood out as Taylor, daughter Emma and husband Andrew Martin were pen-side to see the flock sold by PGG Wrightson at Stortford Lodge. Taylor said it was a tough decision but the right one.
“When we started the Wiltshire flock we wanted an easy-care operation and the Wiltshires just made sense. We were able to establish a full-shedding flock by 2009 and my son Daniel used to call them mini cows since they required minimal labour. I am 71 years old now, though, and it is time for the next generation to do their thing.”
A huge crowd congregated to witness the dispersal of 1050 capital stock breeding ewes, 1600 breeding ewe hoggets and 24 rams. A large number of people were there out of interest, but many were also there to actively bid as the chance to purchase from a complete capital stock flock of full-shedding Wiltshire is a very rare opportunity.
The common thread from those buyers gathered on the rails was the need to counter falling wool prices compared to the growing cost of shearing. Nearly 70 buyers registered on the day – both in person and online via bidr – and were spread from North Waikato to the South Island.
Taylor was well supported by friends and family on this bittersweet occasion, and a round of applause followed her emotional speech at the beginning of the sale. From the first pen of 2-tooths to the last pen of rams, bidding was swift and plentiful at price levels common in the rostrums around New Zealand, yet rarely heard out in any sheep pens.
The main lines of 2-tooths sold for $460-$530 and four and 6-tooth ewes, $440-$500. Four- to 6-year ewes made $390-$460 and cast-for age, $310-$360. The main pens of ewe hoggets sold for $400-$490 and the balance made $150-$285. Ram hoggets returned $625-$1025 and the older rams sold for $1000-$1850. Results from this sale are hard to compare like-for-like, given that very few full dispersals such as these occur. But the high prices speak for themselves in terms of the investment potential that buyers see in them. Kim Young & Son, Ohakune, purchased the 2-tooth ewes and top pens of ewe hoggets, and farm manager Callum Tahau felt it was money well spent, saying: “We had budgeted on around $500, though the market was stronger than we anticipated.”
Tahau said they had hoped to secure at least 1000 but were very happy with the 700 bought. Kim Young & Son are predominantly produce growers but run stock on 1380ha. No shedding sheep are currently farmed, but the dispersal sale was an opportunity not to be missed as “we want to be able to cut costs and also reduce the risk of flystrike. These ewes will replace part of our Romney flock.”
The four and 6-tooth ewes were bound for North Waikato, Manawatū and Whanganui, and several North Island buyers secured lines of ewe hoggets.
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.