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Stock agents expected ewe numbers to be well down at the Hawarden Saleyards on Friday, January 29, in contrast to last year’s sale which was split over two days because of its size.
But the turnaround from the pre-Christmas dry spell to lush, green pastures meant there could be some keen interest in bidding for ewes, despite the global uncertainty.
"It’s changed dramatically. Canterbury has ended up having a pretty good season," Peter Walsh & Associates auctioneer Allister Orchard said.
"From what I understand from the other agents, the overall numbers are going to be back on last year as we haven’t got those large lines of capital stock we had last year.
"So it will put a bit more demand if there’s less numbers, but there’s also a bit of caution about at the moment given the whole world scene with Covid."
Rural Livestock Canterbury livestock manager Donald Cooke said Canterbury’s ewe fairs, beginning with Hawarden, were going to be "a bit of unknown".
"Anyone who was dry pre-Christmas would have reviewed their stock numbers. There would have been a lot of marginal ewes that were killed, so there will be the odd farmer who will look to top up.
"But with what’s happening around the world, people are in that conservative frame of mind."
The agents anticipated the ewe price would be underpinned by the strong mutton price of $4.50 to $5 a kilogram.
Last year’s Hawarden Ewe Fair was held over two days, attracting more than 18,000 mixed-age ewes and 30 rams on the opening day, with the top pens of ewes attracting more than $250.
More than 8500 two-tooth ewes were entered the following week, but struggled to sell amid hot, dry and dusty conditions, with one-third of the sheep returning home unsold.
The top price across the two days was $280 paid for a pen of two-tooth ewes sold by Benmore Station of Marlborough.
Just 12,000 ewes went under the hammer at the 2019 Hawarden Ewe Fair.
The sale will start at 11am, with the ewes being penned and available for inspection from 9am.
The Hawarden combined churches will be catering for the event, continuing a long-standing tradition.
The Hawarden Ewe Fair has been going for more than 100 years.
It is the only ewe fair still running in North Canterbury, while across the Waimakariri River the Sheffield Ewe Fair will be held on February 12.