Meeting in the middle over weaners

Apr 20, 2023

Deer breeders and finishers are meeting in the middle in their weaner negotiations, with breeders coming off the back of two hard years now connecting with a softer finishing market.

Ron Schroeder.

Generally, weaner prices were falling in the $4.50-$5.20/kg band suggested by independent farm consultant Wayne Allan, confirmed PGG Wrightson deer livestock specialist Ron Schroeder. This would be for mainly hybrid stock, with reds achieving lower prices, he said.

However, he had noted this year had started “unusually” with “much higher” prices in the North Island, than the South.

"The breeder wears that uncertainty”

Currently negotiating sales of weaners to several finishers is Canterbury deer breeder High Peak, which runs 1,800 hinds, 800 velvetting stags and around 540 replacement weaners.

Hamish Guild pictured with some of High Peak’s weaners.

The prices he’s discussing are “firmly in the middle” of the $4.50-5.20/kg band, says High Peak’s operations manager Hamish Guild. But, he was “not particularly happy” with that.  Ideally, he would like to see $5.50-6.00/kg, with costs adjusted for the stock classes, yielding farmgate prices for finishers of $11-12/kg further down the value chain.

For the first time for many years, because “there is less finishing power out there” than expected, High Peak had decided not to hold its mid-April auction this year at which it historically sells around 1,000 weaners. All had sold independently through PGG Wrightson, however.

Deer breeders have had a “tough couple of years”, he says, and at current prices, are not making enough.

“If the trend continues, we’re probably going to have to make some decisions about our breeding system.”

Competing land-use options available for farmers and uncertainty about farmgate prices had all played a part in undermining deer finishers’ confidence on the South Island, he believes.

“The breeder wears that uncertainty.”

No weaner auction in  North Island

Manawatū deer farmer Michael Humphrey noted with no North Island physical auctions happening this year to set the price, it’s all started off directly, or through deer livestock agents and “there seems to be a bit of a Mexican standoff,” he says.

Mike Humphries.

At the time of writing, he was expecting his first consignment of mixed sex (M/S) weaners for finishing. After talking to a couple of agents, he understood prices he could expect to pay would be “roughly the same as last year, maybe a little bit more”. 

At that time, the agents had referenced only two lines being sold around him: one, straight from their mothers and averaging 48 kgs at $4.20/kg; and the other “quite big deer” from a deer stud of venison genetics, “but they are still settling on a price,” he says. 

Humphrey is happy with the price he’s agreed of $4.50/kg for the weaned, vaccinated, velvet genetics stock that had been “yarded multiple times and well adjusted”. They will go on to his Greenhill farm, near Feilding, which has just had “the best grass growing summer ever”, to be fattened for this coming year’s markets.

His contacts tell him on the South Island, “they are flat out selling M/S weaners for $4.80/kg and $5.50/kg max for stags.”

Humphrey expects to get the most potential out of his stock, now he is able to sell them at optimal points during the year. This is because of the sector’s market diversification to the US and China, rather than all crunched into the mid-October peak dictated by Europe.

He’d be very happy with the margin of $250 per head suggested by Wayne Allan’ analysis in the current conditions.

“$350 per head would be unrealistic. The breeder’s got to make money as well, otherwise you don’t have an industry,” he commented.

“We have been really lucky this year that the schedule has held so high at near $9.00 per kg,” notes Ron Schroeder.

“If that trend continues through to next year, we could be looking at weaners next season fetching well in excess of this year.”

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