Analyst Intel

9 March 2020

ACROSS THE RAILS | Benchmark finally set for beef weaner prices

By Suz Bremner Suz Bremner

A turbulent start to the year means beef weaner fairs have been approached with much trepidation as the dry to drought conditions and factors affecting international markets have caused many sleepless nights. Entries on the books for some fairs have been so low agents have postponed them while others were held but volume was exceptionally low. At the Wellsford steer fair only 55% of the previous year’s yarding was penned while Frankton offered only a quarter of 2019 tallies. The task of setting benchmarks fell on Stortford Lodge last week where 1400 steers and 1000 heifers, traditional and exotic, were sold. Volume at these fairs was similar to previous years with vendors still targeting these early fairs despite the uncertainty. 

Annual sellers Graeme and Sue Maxwell from Tutira said they went into the unknown but were happy and relieved with the results. “Prices were back on the last few years but with the current conditions we couldn’t expect much more. We expected around the $3/kg mark for steers so came out with a win as prices were above that.” The Maxwells’ traditional and exotic cattle have been a regular fixture at both the early steer and heifer fairs since 1984 though this year they sold a larger number because of the dry conditions. Almost 99% of their steers and a larger portion of heifers went to the fair last week.
The key take-home message from these fairs was that even though prices were not up to the past four years, given the current market environment the weaners exceeded expectations. Thoughts were that steers would average $2.80-$3/kg but managed $3.10-$3.30/kg, which was an improvement on 2015 and all years preceding. Heifers largely ranged from $2.60-$2.80/kg with a few lines able to achieve $2.85-$2.90/kg and a handful just over $3/kg. On a per-head basis traditional and exotic steers made $680-$845 while traditional heifers largely sold for $510-$650 and heavier-weighted exotics $620-$740.