Saturday, April 20, 2024

ACROSS THE RAILS: Farm policy changes draw in breeding ewes

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Changes in farm policies led a number of breeding ewes to the Temuka sale yards for the annual ewe fair, though volume continues to fall away year-on-year.
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Fairs accommodating the scanned-in-lamb and run-with-ram lines have become a rarity in modern-day livestock trading in New Zealand and Temuka is one of few yards to still hold a standalone fair.

In 2016, the fair was pushed out a month to fit in better with scanning and tallies grew from an average of 4000-5000 over the prevailing five years to 7000. 

In 2017, volume peaked at 11,000 but has been steadily declining since then and this year volume was down to 4000 head. As well as the general reduction in breeding ewe volume, also factored in for 2021 was the very dry autumn, which forced many farmers to offload ewes to the processors earlier, though they were rewarded with good mutton schedules, which were also an attraction. 

What this year’s fair lacked in volume, it made up for in price levels, as the market on Wednesday proved to be the best seen over the past 10 years, buoyed by low volume, strong mutton schedules and positive outlooks for lamb.

PGG Wrightson regional manager Joe Higgins says buyers were comfortable bidding up.

“The lamb market is looking solid and that meant buyers placed a couple of extra bids,” Higgins said.

“We could’ve doubled the yarding and easily sold it as a big crowd had buyers from North Canterbury to Palmerston and plenty of places in between.

“While good processor values underpinned, they really did not get a look in.”

The recent buy-out of Peter Walsh and Associates by Hazlett Limited meant Hazlett offered up 1800 ewes and agent Snow Buckley says that while he thought the fair had potential to be stronger, the results still pleased vendors.

“With all the talk of strong lamb schedules and good returns on ewes sold, my expectations were for a market around $20 stronger. But by the time the lambs from these ewes are finished who knows where the market will be at,” Buckley said.

He says the quality was very good and a number of lines were purchased in January from genuine breeders and this fair was targeted to sell at.

“Those sellers that bought ewes in January at around $130-$180 all made good margins. But they are genuine sheep from genuine breeders and will benefit any flock going forward,” he said.

Bidding was very consistent and through the age groups most of the lines traded from $230 to $270. That was a lift of $40-$60 on 2020 results, which had held at around $160-$230 since the lifts seen in 2018. Prior to that, ranges of $100-$170 were common, aside from 2011 when the market jumped up to $160-$220, though quickly fell away in 2012 to $100-$150. 

Higgins says that the demand for older ewes was notably strong.

“The better ewes were the older lines and there was a lift in competition for the annual draft lines in particular,” Higgins said.

Standout lines included capital stock mixed-age Texel-Romney ewes from Bonsall Farm Partnership in Timaru, which Buckley says were compact sheep with a lower scanning percentage of 145% to a Suftex ram. They exceeded expectations at $230-$236. 

Two and three-shear Border-Romney ewes from Hartnett Farms Limited, Timaru, sold in four cuts and were all first-cross. This breed is very popular in the South Island and this offering were scanned-in-lamb to Poll Dorset and Cheviot rams at 178% and went under the hammer for $240-$244. 

The top price in the younger pens though was $270, which was paid for a line of three-shear Perendale-cross ewes from Riverlee Farm in Mayfield. These were scanned at 175% to Suffolk and Kelso rams.

Westmere Farm Co, Ashburton, offered up annual draft Border-Romney and Romney and posted great results for the five and six-year-old ewes.

Border-Romney were scanned at 200% to Southdown and Poll Dorset and sold for $259-$267, while Romney ewes scanned 190% to Border Leicester reached $250-$257.

Top price in the annual draft section went to Fourwind Partnership, Sherwood, as five-year-old Coopdale, scanned 235% to Suffolk and Suftex, topped the sale at $278.

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