Store lambs were the story of May at Stortford Lodge.

Their numbers increased, demand for them rose and the price of them shot up before easing in the last sale of the month.

The best of them cracked the $160 mark and there was little available for less than $100.

The quality of the lambs was generally high all month, a reflection of a good season.

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Colder weather at the end of the month cut grass growth and the prices eased accordingly.

Yardings were around the 5000 to 6000-head mark and this is expected to continue.
In the prime lamb pens prices also continued to climb in line with meat schedules. Again, the yardings grew from a few dozen to around the 300-head mark.

PGG Wrightson livestock manager Neil Common said the schedule was expected to reach the $8/kg mark soon.

"It's only 30 or 40 cents short of that now."

He described the market during May as "hot" as the best lambs sold for close to $220. Again, there was little available for less then $100.

Also in the store pens scanned–in-lamb ewes began to appear in numbers. At the last sale of the month there were both two-tooths and older ewes.

The older ewes made up to $203, the younger $190. An early terminal ram date is always more popular with buyers.

In the prime sale the good news for ewes continued. Scanned-dry ewes began to appear and those numbers will lift for June.

The price of prime ewes has been rising steadily for some months and this looks likely to continue.

The cattle market has not been such good news.

There have been three or four sales this year with no prime cattle offered.

The reasons for this vary from plentiful grass needing to be eaten to a lack of processing space. However, prices have mostly held, particularly for good quality heavy angus oxen which returned to the $3/kg mark.

"Demand is picking up as processing space eases."

In other parts of New Zealand processing space is jammed by cows culled in the fight against mycoplasma bovis but this is unlikely to be the case in Hawke's Bay.

Mr Common said an easing in the store market was due to farmers settling on their winter stocking numbers.

Cattle numbers have recovered from the severe drought and massive cow kill of five years ago and there are plenty around.

He said there was some uncertainty in the market and sometimes there were questions about the quality of some of the cattle appearing.

"Some of it is below par."

However, farmers were feeling positive overall as the grass continued to grow and returns kept rising.

"It's good news for the sheep industry, especially the breeders who are seeing rewards.
''There's a real vibe around sheep markets at present."