A shortage of processing space put a small dent in ewe prices for October at Stortford Lodge.

The shortage was caused by the need to get hoggets through the meatworks before they cut their adult teeth and lost value.

And in sharp contrast to September a lack of rain was beginning to worry some farmers, especially those with crops to grow.

There was some rain during the month but most of it fell north of Napier with falls of 50mm reported. Further south and east the rain was barely measurable.

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Back at the saleyards prime ewe numbers stepped up again as weaning began. Ewes which had lost their lambs in September's storm also featured.

The prices varied from week to week in line with the quality of the offering.

Hogget numbers were also high which reflected last year's good lamb survival. Prices eased slightly from August and September's $200-plus highs but were still good.

PGG Wrightson livestock manager Neil Common described it as "a pretty solid market".

Prime cattle numbers rose again after falling earlier in the month. Notable was the number of cows coming through and making good money. Traditionally bred oxen also sold well, making up toward $3/kg although they were well outnumbered by the female stock.

Again, the quality of the offering each week was the feature with many pens weighing in at more than 600kg average weight.

Store cattle sales were notable for the numbers of stock on offer with two sales of more than 1500 head.

Common said there were numbers not seen for several years. He said cattle numbers had been rebuilt after a big cow kill in the drought five or six years ago.

More dairy bulls are in the system as dairy farmers look to compensate for lower milk returns by selling their bull calves instead of putting them on the bobby calf truck. Also, the high returns for cattle mean more breeding cows have been retained.

Other farmers have cut back on their sheep numbers and bought more trading cattle to eat the plentiful grass after two good summers.

In the store sheep section short-term lamb prices held up well at $150 and more. Longer-term lambs values fell away as the risk of them cutting their adult teeth before they were finished, grew.

Towards the end of the month spring lambs started appearing in numbers. Waikareao Station, Te Aute, sent in 1850 southdown-cross lambs. The tops made $145. That level has been maintained for any good lines of spring lambs since.

They also began appearing at the prime sale although some of them were more suited to the store pens. The best of them made up to $180 for a $30kg or more lamb although most were between $140 and $160.

Common said farmers were still feeling positive although they could do with some more rain. The wind normal at this time of year has made its presence felt for only one day.

Although the east coast of the North Island does not fare well in the El Nino weather pattern being predicted, it usually means rain in the west which should underpin demand for stock from Hawke's Bay.

He said the outlook for lamb was solid and beef at a historical high so confidence followed.