The dream run appears at least temporarily over for sheep farmers as lower prices take grip and the weather gods draw a double edged sword.

Farmers have pretty much had the dream run, particularly over the last three months where record prices were paid.

Top fine-year-old ewes made over $200, which was between $40 and $60 a head more than last season, while top end two tooth ewes fetched $250-$300.

"Even the store lamb market has been expensive," independent Whanganui livestock commentator David Cotton said.


"Buyers have been reasonably happy to pay the higher prices with the killing price also up along with good grass growth over the last few months.

"But all dream runs must come to an end and over the last six weeks the wind and lack of rain has taken its toll on feed cover and quality.

"The countdown for the Easter trade is also on. Easter comes early this year and the final day for processing is February 28, so if you have booked space you will struggle to make it. Space for all classes of prime livestock has become very tight due to the sheer numbers and the short kill weeks.

"How the markets changed in the first few weeks of January when some store lambs hit $4/kg liveweight, while last week at the Feilding sale they were around the $3.20/kg mark with some lines less than $3/kg.

"Rain would be welcomed, but that is a double edged sword. When light rain arrives it brings with it the risk of seriously increasing facial eczema spore counts," Cotton warned.

The dry, hot conditions had forced spore counts to rise substantially with farmers in Fordell immediately east of Whanganui recording over 30,000.

"At my farm in Kai Iwi on Friday I recorded around 5000. If we get light rain the spors counts will simply explode. I have talked to a number of farmers who have started to spray paddocks as a six week precaution.

"I would suggest with ewes worth $200 spraying for FE would be a great investment and then follow that up with zinc bolus. Spraying fungicide is about $35 a hectare while a bolus is $4.30 for another six weeks precaution," Cotton said.