Independent Whanganui livestock commentator David Cotton is forecasting a reasonable season ahead once farmers have dodged several traditional fishhooks that lurk at this time of year.
The new season is well underway as good numbers of new-season lambs head off on a one-way truck ride to the works.
The farmer and owner of Rivercity Livestock said the new-season's lamb schedule was back to $7/kg-$7.40/kg, but this was not unexpected and more would come off the price before Christmas.
"There are only five more full-week kills left before the dreaded short weeks of Christmas – New Year and Wellington Anniversary - with some companies closing altogether," Cotton warned.
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"My advice is the same every year: book your space early and buy your fat-stock buyer a Christmas present - unless it's a wet summer. No matter what, space will get tight as always.
"We've certainly come off the highs of recent years and it's sobering reading on the bank statement when compared to November 2019 with lamb at $8.80/kg, cattle $6.20/kg and mutton $6.10/kg."
Cotton said the cattle killing market continued to tick over and the killing price was edging its way back.
"So, it's a juggling act between how much weight you can put on per week versus the schedule drop and remembering there's only five weeks left of normal killing space before Christmas.
"I would describe all the store markets as cautious. Buyers are just not sure where the markets are heading. You just have to pick up the newspapers to read the experts talking drought and farming income back by 26 per cent and Covid-19 in almost every publication, so it's not surprising to see there has been some loss of confidence, hence a cautious approach to buying.
"The new-season store lambs are selling well when compared to the schedule, although they are well back on this time last year as you would expect. The very early new-season lambs made up to $5/kg in late October, 2019 coming back to $4.55/kg the second week of November compared to $3.80/kg this year.
"I must say I misjudged where I thought the spring cattle market would head. With large numbers of cattle being killed over the last two years due to droughts, particularly last year in the Hawke's Bay, I thought there would be a shortage of cattle in the spring this year, but I was wrong," Cotton conceded.
The Feilding sale yards have been bulging at the seams with cattle these past few weeks and some of the extra numbers coming up from the South Island have added to the pressure. Last week, the older cattle sale was moved to Thursday to help accommodate all the extra numbers being sold.
"The recent rain has certainly helped hold up the price to an acceptable level," Cotton said.
"We have received 49mm rain for the first nine days of November, the ground temperatures are good, livestock markets are very good considering what Covid has done to some other industries, interest rates are fantastic, so on balance I personally think we are going to have a reasonable season ahead."