Despite the season tracking behind in both grass and lamb growth, stock are fetching record prices.
“It was a slow start but the way the season is unfolding now it is difficult to say where it might be headed.
“The sheep sector is in a strong vein, $9 a kilogram for lamb is exceptional and with grass plentiful now, a high lamb schedule and record mutton prices there’s nothing but optimism in sheep.”
Marfell said indications are the high prices will hold to Christmas. The New Year is looking positive too.
“There’s confidence in the schedule and just this week there’s contracts come out at minimum $8.10/kg right up to Christmas and including Christmas week.
“Even if schedules come back after that the market is still strong.”
The Coalgate sale sent strong signals with record highs fetched for mixed age wethers and annual draft ewes.
Peter Walsh and Associates auctioneer Hamish Zuppicich said it was amazing to sell wethers at $373 a head.
“It all comes back to demand for protein but it makes for a pretty expensive sausage,” Zuppicich said.
“It’s certainly created hype at the sale and I expect set a benchmark for where lamb and mutton could end up this season.”
The wethers, bought by regular buyers, are expected to end up in butchers’ shops.
They were sold by Richard and Jane Maxwell of Mt Catherine Farm, Cheviot, making it a glorious exit from a lifetime of farming as the couple have sold their farm and are downsizing to a 50 hectare retirement block.
Annual draft ewes selling up to $350 a head also set a record high for Coalgate.
On-farm lamb sales at Highfields and Glenmark Springs in North Canterbury and Putiki Farm at Port Levy also made the record books last week.
“It was always anticipated that it would be a good week and without a doubt it was the best pricing ever with all vendors extremely pleased with the very strong sales,” Marfell said.
The top lambs at Michael Northcote’s Highfields sale, Waiau, fetched $195 with the average at $137. Overall 1206 prime lambs were sold at $8.80 to $8.90/kg.
About 2000 stores sold around $4.30/kg with many stores bought by northern Southland farmers.
Northcote said he lifted breeding ewe numbers this year.
“This is real ewe-running country but I didn’t think this time last year that prices would be this good. The next two to three years are looking positive too.”
Northcote farms in partnership with his brother Hugh at Whaleback Station.
Highfields has irrigation with the focus now on boosting pasture to make hay and silage for supplementary feed for when Whaleback lambs are weaned in January and brought down to Highfields to finish.
At Glenmark Springs Ian and Jess Knowles sold 2500 Suftex lambs.
“It was a great sale, the best yet in our five years here.
“We started here during the drought. That was tough but the three years since have been fantastic.
“We had plenty of grass but not a lot of sunshine so the lambs were a bit behind where they are usually, a couple of weeks later and couple of kilos lighter.”
Still the top price was $183 with a sale average of $129.
The sale is usually 50:50 prime and store but this year it was 80:20 store to prime because of the lower weights, Knowles said.
“We’re building up our ewe flock each year. There’s still plenty of grass and the season outlook is excellent so we’re pretty happy.”