Meat & Livestock News

Resilient Lamb Sales Surpass Expectations Amid Dry Spell in Ashburton High Country

A beautiful shot of a lamb in the middle of the green field


  • Ashburton high country farmers faced challenges with lamb sales due to a dry December, leading to early sales with mixed outcomes.
  • Despite difficult conditions, sales exceeded expectations with strong bidding, particularly for Poll Dorset-Merino cross lambs.
  • The region’s farmers are now focusing on securing winter feed, with some areas experiencing better conditions and higher demand for store lambs.

In December, Ashburton’s high-country farmers encountered significant challenges due to a severe lack of rainfall, receiving only 12mm for the month.

This dry spell led to depleted lamb feed and necessitated the early scheduling of annual on-farm lamb sales. Alan McIntyre, farm manager at Arrowsmith Station, noted the lambs were not in their ideal condition due to the dry weather, despite some rain in the following weeks which did little to alleviate the situation.

Arrowsmith Station, during its 13th annual sale, offered 2,000 mixed-sex Poll Dorset-Merino cross lambs. McIntyre expressed satisfaction with the sales results, acknowledging that while the outcomes were lower than the previous year, they were still better than anticipated given the market downturn and dry conditions.

This year, the station also found itself in the unusual position of purchasing baleage to supplement winter feed, a move rarely seen in the region.

The sale saw the top Poll Dorset-Merino mix-sex lambs fetching prices between $141 and $134, with lighter types selling at $114. Wether lambs were sold for $88 down to $65, and ewe lambs ranged from $80 to $72.

Neighbouring Castle Ridge, managed by Paul Harmer, also reported satisfactory sales despite the lambs being smaller than usual. Confidence among buyers remained high, with many regulars returning, reassured by the quality and potential of the lambs offered.

Harmer highlighted winter feed as the primary concern moving forward, with recent rains only just allowing for the germination of previously sown crops. Castle Ridge sold 8,000 Poll Dorset cross lambs, with prices reflecting the quality and condition of the lambs despite the challenging season.

Further afield, Mt Possession’s annual sale of 9,000 lambs also performed well under the circumstances, with farm manager Ryan Hussey expressing contentment with the sales, which surpassed expectations despite the dry conditions affecting feed availability.

The article also touches on the broader market dynamics, noting that while the dry conditions have posed significant challenges for farmers in the Ashburton high country, other regions like Southland have experienced bumper grass growth, supporting better-than-expected prices for crossbred store lambs.

This variation in conditions across New Zealand underscores the resilience and adaptability of the country’s farmers in the face of climatic challenges.

In summary, despite the dry conditions impacting lamb feed and necessitating early sales, Ashburton high country farmers have navigated the season with better-than-expected sales outcomes. The focus now shifts to securing adequate winter feed, with some regions benefiting from favourable conditions that bolster the market for store lambs.