Analyst Intel

10 September 2021

ACROSS THE RAILS | First test for spring cattle market

By Suz Bremner

The spring cattle market was put to its first real test at many sale yards, but spare a thought for those yards sitting under the Level 4 lockdown, as they can still not yet open their gates.

Pukekohe, Tuakau and Wellsford fall in that area and potential vendors are frustrated by the continued closure of the Wellsford sale yards, PGG Wrightson Northland livestock manager Bernie McGahan says.

“We are selling bits and pieces in the paddock, but this is the time when farmers like to quit cattle in some numbers,” McGahan said. 

As a stop-gap measure, some lower Northland cattle are being sent to Kauri sale days in Whangarei instead of Wellsford, which usually has the bigger tallies and galleries. Other farmers have sold ahead of usual times, before lockdown, because of feed shortages and the good store prices.

McGahan thought that the local store cattle values should be higher than currently, based on the beef schedule, but that lockdowns and uncertainties were holding them down a little.

“When the restrictions ease, I think the cattle market will take off, probably in October,” he said.

Pasture growth across Northland is slow because September has been wet and cold so far and a lot of nitrogen was going out, as McGahan could observe out his office window.

Some cattle that would usually be sold at Tuakau are being drip-fed into the Frankton sale yards and the hope is that a move to Level 3 will see these yards back in operation. Many other North Island yards got right into spring cattle fair action and as restrictions moved down to Level 2 on Wednesday, the pressure around attending numbers also made the job of holding sales a little easier.

These early spring sales showed real promise for the two-year and yearling cattle that came forward – in particular, annual draft lines of quality dairy-beef and traditional cattle. Values for these types are already very similar to last year’s spring market and as yet there is not a true grass market established, so there is still room for more, especially given the promising beef outlook. Some regions have been fortunate to have good spring rain already and were the leaders in the market; most notably Manawatū were big buyers at several yards. While Central Hawke’s Bay buyers were active, Hawke’s Bay farmers are finding themselves in uncomfortably familiar territory of waiting for the rain to come and now that the wind has arrived, concern is already mounting over another dry spring.

Temuka also held a big spring cattle sale after testing the water last week with a small yarding. This market also showed good potential early in the season.