Monday, April 22, 2024

ACROSS THE RAILS: Promising start for in-lamb ewe market

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In-lamb ewes began coming forward in more meaningful numbers last week and the season got off to a promising start. A mild start to winter has given many areas in the North Island the chance to improve pasture levels and with it, the confidence to be able to farm a few extra head than they may have thought eight weeks ago. This has been underpinned by expectations of very strong farm gate lamb prices in spring.
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Another factor is mutton values.

The AgriHQ North Island average is currently around $1.20/kg above year-ago levels, and 10c/kg above the five-year average. Heavy prime ewes are fetching around $170-$200 through the yards, if not more, so it is no surprise purchasers are needing to dig further into their pockets to secure genuine, in-lamb ewes for breeding.

The first in-lamb ewe fair was held at Te Kuiti on June 11. Carl White, who attended the sale on behalf of AgriHQ, reported that there was a good bench of buyers from South Auckland, Taupō and Putaruru who, combined with locals, came to compete for over 4000 ewes. Over half of the offering consisted of a very nice consignment of capital stock Coopworth ewes from Glen Murray, North Waikato, which were offered due to a farm sale. The top pens of two-tooth ewes scanned an average of 179% to a Coopworth ram and fetched $250-$255, with the second cut $222. Four-tooth ewes, also to a Coopworth ram, made $222-$240 and six-tooth and four-year to Suffolk-Texel realised $210-$232. Better ewe hoggets achieved $139-$147.

The balance was mostly second cut Perendale ewes from Taumarunui. These were in-lamb to Suffolk-Texel and the top two-tooths made $220, and next cut, $205.  Four-tooth ewes achieved $208. Mixed-age ewes were sold in a range of $186 to $203.

The spotlight was also on in-lamb ewes at Feilding on June 11. These were of good quality, and values were between $20 and $40 stronger than both 2019 and 2020. Around 830 freshly shorn four-year-old ewes came from Taihape and were scanned in-lamb to a terminal ram. One buyer purchased the top two cuts of scanned-twin pens, which made up around half of the offering. There was energetic competition and values reached $242. The third cut of twins fetched $236, and singles mostly $194.

It will be interesting to see where this market goes from here on. On one hand, overall declining flock numbers will likely reduce throughput. On the other hand, farm sales and conversions to forestry may decrease demand at the same time. Earlier lambing ewes are likely to hold interest, however, as spring lamb values will be in the forefront of purchaser’s minds.

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