Sheep shortage underpins prices

A shortage of sheep and a surplus of grass throughout much of the South Island has underpinned strong store stock prices.

Annual draft ewes have been making more than $100 at recent sales, about $15 a head more than last year, while store lamb prices have held their value.

PGG Wrightson Otago livestock manager Chris Swale said three lines of ewes made more than $100 at Friday's Palmerston annual draft ewe fair, where prices were on par with recent sales.

But numbers were back.

Traditionally, the Palmerston sales attracted 5000 ewes, but last week's yarding was just 3000.

He said the shortage was due to fewer clearing sales, ewe numbers being back on many farms, many regions having plenty of grass, and farmers, during the past three to four years of the dairy conversion boom, being able to kill all their lambs and buy in replacements.

"In general, there are a lot of people who are down on ewe numbers," he said.

Prices have also been helped by a rising lamb schedule.

Mr Swale said Alliance had increased this week's lamb schedule 10c a kg and mutton by 20c a kg, which has given farmers some confidence.

Some inland parts of Otago and North Otago were dry, but Mr Swale said recent rain in Maniototo had encouraged some farmers from there to attend the Palmerston sale.

Canterbury was having an exceptional season and most coastal regions had plenty of grass, he said.

At the Balclutha annual draft ewe fair, on February 12, Ritchie McCorkindale topped the sale with 500 5-year Perendale ewes selling for $105.

On Friday, Alec Heckler, from Stoneburn, topped the Palmerston sale with 281 Romney ewes which sold for $104, while Mark Prebble, Mt Blue, sold 125 Romneys for $103 and a second small line for $92.

The Lawson partnership, Waikouaiti, sold 222 Romdales for $101.

Ewes a bit lighter in condition sold from $80 to $90 and light to medium-conditioned ewes sold from $70 to $80.

Mr Swale said demand remained high for store lambs and could get stronger if the lamb schedule continued to firm and regions continued to enjoy abundant grass growth.

Store lambs, 30kg to 35kg, were making 220c a kg and lambs less than 30kg 230c a kg, having held their value for some time.

Farmers have few opportunities left to build up ewe flocks, with one last ewe fair in Balclutha later this week.


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