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Bird's eye view . . . Ewes are expected to flock to the Hawarden Saleyards on Friday, January 28. Photo: File

By DAVID HILL

Favourable weather conditions and strong meat prices mean there is plenty of optimism ahead of this month’s Hawarden Ewe Fair.

Stock agents are expecting a strong yarding of 18,000 ewes at the Hawarden Saleyards on Friday, January 28.

But it will not match the heights of two years ago when the sale was split over two days, PGG Wrightson livestock representative Kevin Rowe says.

“We are expecting it will be a one day sale which is much easier for everybody,” he says.

“Feedwise, things are very strong in Canterbury and the market returns are very good, which is what we need, so people can buy with a bit of confidence.”

Hazlett Livestock auctioneer Allister Orchard says the sale has been boosted by capital stock from recent farm sales.

He expects there could be some good prices paid, with the sale being underpinned by the high meat schedule.

“There won’t be big numbers two-tooths, with the meat schedule being so strong back in the spring, but we have some good lines of capital stock which will be sought after.

“The good thing is, there’s good demand for good breeding ewes and we will have good numbers of them at the sale.

“The sheep industry is in very good heart and the cattle sector is strong as well.”

Mr Orchard says 18,000 is about the maximum number of the ewes the Hawarden Saleyards can hold, so it will make for a busy day.

Around 1300 ewes went under the hammer last year, compared to the two day sale in January 2020, when more than 18,000 mixed-age ewes and more than 8500 two-tooth ewes went on sale in hot, dry and dusty conditions.

Last year’s top price was $234 for a line-up of two-tooth ewes, which were sold by Christophersen Ltd, of Hawarden.

This price was well short of prices in excess of $280 paid in recent years.

But it was a solid sale overall, with several pens of two-tooth ewes selling for around $200, while mixed age ewes sold for $160 to $190, and annual draft ewes fetched $160 to $180.

Last year’s lower ewe numbers were put down to uncertainty around Covid-19, farmers having plenty of feed and the fact no capital lines of stock were offered for sale.

This month’s sale will start at 11am, with the ewes being penned and available for inspection from 9am on the day of the sale.

Once again, the local Hawarden combined churches will be catering for the event, continuing a long-standing tradition.

The Hawarden Presbyterian Church first catered at the fair in 1930 and in recent years has joined forces with other church and community groups.

Volunteers provide breakfast, morning tea and lunch for up to 200 hungry stock agents, auctioneers, transport operators, farmers and visitors, depending on the size of the crowd on the day.

The Hawarden Ewe Fair has been going for more than 100 years.

It is the only ewe fair still running in North Canterbury.

Across the Waimakariri River the the Temuka Adult Ewe Fair on Wednesday, February 2, and the Sheffield Ewe Fair on Friday, February 11, are the only other remaining ewe fairs in Canterbury.