For some vendors, Tuesday's Dannevirke/Pahiatua weaner sale was a nail-biting time as they watched their calves go under the hammer.

The first pen of 20 outstanding autumn bull calves made $600 a head, with prices for other lines ranging from $595 down to the mid $400s. Small pens of two or three calves failed to sell under the hammer at $270.

John and Pat Shannon of Woodville had a nervous wait for their line of 15 spring weaners to make it over their bottom line of $500.

"We'd told the stock agent we weren't going to sell under $500, because with the ridiculous price of milkpowder, we would have made bugger all," Pat told the Dannevirke News.

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"It seems some vendors took a hammering, but we had our bottom line and we were sticking to it. Of course you want more because a lot of work goes into rearing calves and under $500 a head we would have lost money. We would have taken them home if they hadn't made that price."

The Shannons will have more calves in the next sale in a fortnight.

Some lines were passed in at the sale, with stock agents having to work with vendors and buyers to get their required price.

Twenty-five spring calves from a Norsewood vendor were passed in at $510 a head early in the sale, while 30 sold on behalf of Matthew Jackson of Woodville, described by the auctioneer as "absolute quality", went for $520, while "a cracking pen of calves" from another Woodville vendor were passed in at $490, with the auctioneer adamant they weren't going to be given away.

A pen of 21 Speckled Park cross calves from A and D Capes of Eketahuna were described as "crackers" and sold for $595 a head. PGG Wrightson agent Tim Pickering said the sale was back (price-wise) on last year.

"Prices are behind all over the North Island and until there's substantial rain ..." he said.

There were 692 calves in the sale, down on the 800 at this time last year and while the stock presented was very good, vendor expectation of prices was high, agent Bjorn Anderson said.

Buying interest was mainly local, with some Hawke's Bay purchasers in the market too.