Grass growth fuels demand at stock sales

SOUGHT AFTER: Store cattle have been selling strongly at the Frankton Saleyards.
SOUGHT AFTER: Store cattle have been selling strongly at the Frankton Saleyards.

The Waikato store cattle market has had a buoyant month largely due to unseasonal grass growth.

The growth has fuelled demand for cattle at the weekly store livestock sales at Frankton, PGG Wrightson Waikato livestock manager Dean Evans said.

The average lift across all stock classes was about 20-40 cents per kilogram of liveweight (kgLW), he said.

"There's plenty of grass around and it has had a big impact on store prices."

Schedules were also high because of supply and demand.

Prime livestock were not coming forward for processing because farmers were wanting to put extra weight on them, he said.

"It's a factor of: A, works schedules are high; B, there's plenty of feed around; and C, people have gone through winter, so they can see the feed ahead of them," Evans said.

The prices were driving farmers to bring their store cattle forward for sale and it had seen huge numbers yarded at Frankton in recent weeks.

It was also a good sign that the market would be buoyant when new season lambs start to go to sale later in the year. He predicted a starting schedule for prime lambs of around $6/kgLW. That should also flow on to the store lamb market.

The feed levels, the drop in ewe numbers as a result of the drought and variable ewe pregnancy scanning results should keep prices high, Evans said.

Ian Thomson, of New Zealand Farmers Livestock, estimated there had been lift of about 10c/kgLW for store and prime cattle at the Frankton Saleyards.

There were also few prime cattle coming forward at the weekly Tuesday sale, which was keeping prices high, he said.

"The cattle aren't prime at the moment. The numbers are slowly building but in the past the Tuesday sales have been pretty small."

Last Wednesday's store sale was one of the largest at Frankton in recent times and everything sold strongly, he said.

In the King Country, any good forward cattle was selling well because of the lack of numbers, PGG Wrightson King Country livestock manager Bill Harrison said.

"Compared to last year, they are making more. Store cattle too I believe."

It was being fuelled by store cattle coming off the hills being bought by finishers, he said.

"The market has been good. The stock prices have been good for sheep and for cattle," Harrison said.

Early spring grass growth had been more sporadic with some areas seeing tremendous growth and others lesser so.

"Some of the parts of the King Country that took a bit of a hammering in the drought still need a drink of water. It needs a bit of rain just to keep things going."

Waikato Federated Farmers meat and fibre chairman Chris Irons said the lift was due in part to farmers not purchasing cattle in the autumn during the annual weaner cattle sales.

"It's just supply and demand. A lot of people buy weaners in the autumn but no-one had feed this year so there was not a lot bought into the area. The people who managed to hold on to them are getting the benefit now."

There were plenty of farmers now with grass who were looking to put livestock on that grass to use it, he said.

Waikato Times