One of the wettest winters on record has followed Whanganui and district farmers into an equally wet early spring.

There is possibly one saving grace - it has not been cold.

Despite the conditions, independent Whanganui livestock commentator David Cotton is hearing good reports about lamb survival rates.

"The last week of August had me thinking it was spring come early," Mr Cotton observed.

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"The sun was out and I felt a spring in my step, but as often happens the rain came back the first week of September with another 70mm drop. Mud and more mud is making life hard for new born lambs and farmers.

"It has been one of the wettest winters I have recorded at our Kai Iwi farm with 348 mm of rain in just four months, but that was on top of a wet summer. That said, the saving factor for me has been that has not been cold.

"If you get rain and a southerly wind I have witnessed almost all the lambs surviving the first 20 minutes and getting a good feed of colostrum continue on. Those struggling to survive less than 20 minutes and your lambing percentage for the year goes out the window in one 24-hour storm," Mr Cotton said.

However, from local reports he is hearing about good survival rate for lambs this year and the early indications are the killing price for prime lambs is also looking good.

"The initial price looks to be mid $6.50/kg compared to $5.50 last year that's a good $1/kg up or $18/20 per head. The store market for lambs has held on exceptionally well for the small numbers still being traded, but it's hard to see much of a profit in them at the levels being paid.

"The average price paid last week was around $3.60/kg liveweight for a 33kg lamb and with the current kill price stable at $7.10/kg it's hard to see much of a profit in them for finishers.

"Cattle kill prices remain flat, but still at a good level given the higher NZ dollar putting pressure on exporters. The local trade buyers often also put pressure on the exporters to compete for prime cattle this time of the year - both are paying $5.80/5.90/kg for prime.
"The store cattle market remains steady with low numbers being traded which is not uncommon for this time of the year."

And his tip for farmers in these difficult times?

"Remember to look after your staff over the winter. I purchased my farm manager, financial controller, cook and person that must be obeyed a new rain coat. It's orange to also help comply with my health and safety obligations. I could not afford a salary increase this year with the wool price the way it is, but it's just a way to show how you appreciate them, when her in doors is outdoors doing it," he joked.■