The catchment of the Temuka and Stortford Lodge sale yards stretches as far as the Chatham and Pitt Islands and at this time of year livestock from both should be a regular feature at the yards.
Yet they have been notably absent, aside from a small number starting to appear as of late.
Farmers on the main islands book a truck to pick up their livestock, while on the outlying islands the only mode of transport is the MV Southern Tiare – a ship that is equipped to carry livestock across from the islands, a journey that can take up to three days depending on the weather.
The ship is at the mercy of Mother Nature and this year she has caused major disruptions, which has in turn delayed the stock appearing at the sale yards.
Chatham Islands farmer Robert Holmes co-ordinates the stock and shipping and says he has never seen such hold-ups.
“The ship has been held up with all these storms that have been going through. I’ve never seen anything like it in 25-years – it’s been the worse six weeks we have ever had,” he says.
“There’s no problem with the ship, it’s just too rough and it could be 8-9 days before it sails yet, but we do have a window of opportunity on Thursday.”
Holmes says that storms are always a part of voyage planning, but it has been the continuity of them that has caused major issues this year.
“We usually have to deal with some storms, but they have almost been continuous. Two and a half months ago we were ahead of schedule by two voyages, now we are three behind and we are still not sure if we will sail this week.
“At our (Chatham Islands) end the weather is good but it is the big swells further out over the Chathams Rise that are the real issue,”
A new wharf was built five years ago on the island and Holmes says this season has been the first real test for it.
Fortunately, a good autumn has provided a buffer for farmers who are holding onto stock longer than expected, Holmes said.
“We have been very, very lucky that the season has been brilliant. We haven’t got a lot of feed, but we have more than what we’ve had in the past. But we will be quite pleased to get rid of them.”.
Most of the lambs are yet to come over and once the ship is underway again the lambs will take precedence over cattle and ewes, to ensure they get to market before they risk cutting their teeth.
In a typical season, the ship would take loads on a fortnightly basis, alternating between Timaru and Napier ports, carrying around 2500 lambs per voyage.
The first voyage back to New Zealand for the MV Southern Tiare will port at Timaru and then return for a load to head to Napier Port.
Buyers on the mainland are eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Chatham Islands lambs too as the old season male lamb supply available in the North and South Islands starts to reduce.
The vendors will be rewarded with a market very similar to last year’s results, though as the lambs will be heavier due to the delay, per head prices should be higher.
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.