August was the month at Stortford Lodge when sheep prices soared.

Ewes and lambs had been increasing in value steadily since the beginning of the year but August was a new story altogether as prime ewes broke the $200 mark and store lambs beat the returns for prime lambs only a year ago.

A falling NZ dollar, increased demand from China and a reduced supply worldwide meant good news all round for those with sheep to sell.

A good lambing last year also meant plenty of lambs to sell and a good autumn and kind winter means most of them are top quality.

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Contract finishers with targets to meet and grass to eat have been the biggest buyers as the numbers on offer grew each week.

The growth in numbers is likely to continue as paddocks are wanted for cropping and work begins on orchards. Ewes have been coming into the prime sale in diminishing numbers which are likely to rise as wet-dries are sorted out on farm.

PGG Wrightson livestock manager Neil Common said lamb auction prices were $15 to $20 above what processors were paying as procurement wars stepped up.

The store lamb market followed the prime market with the best lambs topping $170.

The good store prices were attracting lambs from farms where they might have been finished because it was easier to sell them sooner for what was still excellent money, thus saving the cost of drench and shearing.

Also in the store markets, good Wairoa ewes in-lamb to a terminal sire made more than $230. Even lesser and later lines topped the $180 mark. At one sale two-tooths reached $240.

Ewes with lambs at foot started the month at record prices around the $124 all counted mark but eased toward the end of the month as the numbers came in and the quality varied.

In the cattle rostrum the store market came out of the winter doldrums with signs of a grass market as buyers returned.

Common said quality cattle of any age sold well, which was pleasing after a quiet winter.
Small numbers of prime cattle generally sold well with heavy steers going past $3/kg. In-calf cows attracted a premium as well.

He said farmer morale was good at present as lambs and claves were born into good weather with the grass beginning to grow.

It is shaping up to be another good year with few weather-related losses and the prospect of good prices continuing despite an easing at the first sale of September. Water tables were high and everything was lining up for a good start to the new season.¦