The Sheep Deer and Cattle Report: Store lamb and calf prices surge as feed conditions rule


Schedules rose this week, as the UK chilled market ends, and frozen opportunities arrive and low stocks continue to drive demand.

Exporters report sales for the Easter campaign have started slowly, with unseasonal warm weather in the UK not conducive to roast leg sales.

Feed conditions are allowing managers to chase heavier weights, and store lamb demand has seen price levels average $90/head for South Island sales and over $100 for northern deals.

Prime lambs values are lifting also and now sit between $111-$123 at  the main saleyards with better prices being achieved in the North.

Surplus feed in most regions of NZ are driving these prices but finished values need to keep climbing for a good return, especially as lambs wool is not contributing anything to profit margins.

Local trade prices are $5.80- $6/kg and will need to exceed these levels if profits are to be made on these strong store lamb prices.

Rams are now being put out in southern regions to ewes in good condition, and processors will be hoping for more lambs on the ground this spring, than was achieved last year.


Last week’s North Island sale reflected the subdued demand and uncertainty restricting buying activity, but more vendors grudgingly accepted the present price levels, and 72% of the offering was sold.

These sales did however come at a cost, as all indicators dropped between 7c-22c clean /kg, and now all coarse wool microns are under $4/kg.

This sudden reversal of prices has dented the already fragile confidence in wool, and interest will again re-emerge for animals that shed their wool.


Stable prime beef schedules this week, but manufacturing product eased again as US importers react negatively to the present price levels.

A global grain surplus is evident, with the US, Australia, Russia, and Argentina all reporting huge stocks, and this make feeding cheaper on feedlot beef operations.

The weaner beef market in the South Island has reached record levels, with 150-250kg steer calves averaging around 450c/kg lwt, and similar weighted heifers 60c/kg lwt less.

Prices for 18 month store cattle have lifted as well, and now sit in the Canterbury saleyards 30-40c/kg lwt ahead of prime returns.

Professor Gluckman, the government’s science adviser, calls for big changes to protect NZ’s waterways, but does recognise the changes agriculture has made, and that improvements will take time.

Venison schedules moved again this week, and are now at levels $60 a head better than last year.

This optimism spilled over into early weaner sales in Canterbury and Southland, with weaner stags making over $7/kg lwt, and some well-bred weaner hinds being purchased for breeding.

The top animals were over 70kg lwt but at over $500/hd purchase price they will need to reach that level carcase weight by late spring, to achieve satisfactory profits.

One exporter reports a record month selling venison at home, and the strongest interest at supermarkets was in venison medallions.

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to comment or click on the "Register" link below a comment.

Remember we welcome robust, respectful and insightful debate. We don't welcome abusive or defamatory comments and will de-register those repeatedly making such comments. Our current Comment policy is here.