Analyst Intel

29 June 2020

ACROSS THE RAILS | Lamb tallies rocket past annual averages

By Suz Bremner

A Hawkes Bay farmer very wisely recently said “We’ll never run out of lambs – if the price is right they will keep coming” and that certainly seems to be ringing true nationwide as June store lamb tallies at yards covered by AgriHQ’s LivestockEye reports clearly show a significant lift in volume, especially when compared to five-year average levels. 

For those who like the numbers here is how they stack up, courtesy of the AgriHQ database. In June 170,400 store lambs went through Stortford Lodge, Matawhero, Feilding, Coalgate, Temuka and Canterbury Park sale yards. Compared to five-year averages Stortford Lodge, Temuka and Coalgate have the most significant lifts, all up 54%-60%, with Stortford Lodge yarding 46,550 compared to the five-year average of 19,562. Feilding yarded the most lambs at just over 57,000 head though that is only an 11% lift. Canterbury Park was the only yard to fall short with numbers down 19%.

Any one factor alone has not influenced that lift in volume. It was caused by a combination. Yards are still playing catch-up after lockdown, even six weeks on. Also, prices at the post-lockdown sales significantly changed what was being paid in the paddock, with the competition at the yards providing a clear benchmark. Prices have remained strong and sellers might well be opting to trade in the yards rather than in the paddock to take advantage of the competitive environment. The strong market has also meant some traders are recycling lambs, particularly longer-term types, and the proof of that comes from mixed earmark lines found in some of the pens recently. 

And, of course, the dry and drought conditions mean many were forced to offload lambs they might well have finished in another year. In a similar vein, farmers might also have decided to cull deeper into replacement ewe lambs. Whatever the reasoning behind the high volume, June 2020 has rocketed past previous years.