Sales quietly kicked off this week on both the North and South Islands and it was a case of testing the water to see how they would go. No yards offered up exceptionally high tallies, but there was volume enough to gauge how Level 3 sales would operate.
By all accounts it was a successful start to the ‘new normal’ – for now. And while no one told the cattle and sheep in the pens about social distancing, the limited number of people able to attend the sales were very conscious of keeping their distance. Masks were the most obvious statement that times had changed and the only instance anyone was seen without one was when the auctioneers were working their magic.
Markets suffered little from the two-week hiatus from the yards and for most classes they carried on where they had finished pre-lockdown. The old season lamb market continued to wind-down after a record year and prices still reflected solid demand as buyers gathered up the last of them, though with caution around cutting teeth.
Focus for some has shifted to the ewes with lambs-at-foot market and these prices were strong. The prime cattle market needs to find its feet again but then it went into lockdown at record high levels, so perhaps for prime buyer’s lockdown provided some relief in that respect. At Canterbury Park prime cattle prices were back 20-30c/kg on pre-lockdown levels as processors had to reduce capacity, but as all the cogs start turning again it is likely the market will rebound.
Store cattle volume was low at the sales post lockdown, but that is simply the market feeling its way into Level 3. The first full week post the shift to Level 3 is set to be very busy in the store cattle pens as bigger yardings of yearlings and 2-year cattle – your typical spring cattle – are already on a number of sale yard books as they play catch-up. And this is where online bidding will be pivotal as we move forward, as physical attendance at the sales will still be restricted, but this new era of online trading fills the gap. Already those that were unable to be at the sale either due to the restrictions or distance from the yards have taken up the online bidding challenge and it has found its place alongside the conventional method of buying.
The two main platforms that have emerged are MyLivestock and bidr® – both of which were operational prior to the latest lockdown but now have more of a presence.