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Otago offering . . . Hazlett auctioneer Ed Marfell takes bids on 120 romney-merino ewes from Bendigo Station.

By DAVID HILL

Sheep numbers were down, but there was keen interest among bidders at the Hawarden Ewe Fair.

Around 12,000 ewes and 20 flock rams went under the hammer, a far cry from recent years when stock numbers topped 20,000 and the sale was spread over two days.

But the day started strongly with pen one, a line-up of 117 two-tooth corriedale ewes entered by Bel-Hamed Farm from Waipara, selling for $262.

The day’s top price of $281 went to a pen of half-bred two-tooth ewes from Benmore farm, near Ward, Marlborough.

While the prices fell short of the top price of $324 paid at the Temuka Ewe Fair earlier this month, PGG Wrightson livestock representative Kevin Rowe says he believes the average price paid at Hawarden would be one of the highest ever.

“There was a very good buying gallery and they were there right to the end. Normally, it starts to die away towards the end, but they were certainly keen to buy some sheep.”

Most younger ewes sold for $240 to $265, while the older ewes fetched between $180 and $225 and no stock was left unsold.

Peter Walsh and Associates North Canterbury stock agent Alby Orchard says buyers travelled from as far afield as Marlborough and Mid and South Canterbury, while ewes were transported from as far south as Central Otago.

Mr Orchard says the drop in numbers was due to farmers rebuilding numbers after three years of drought and the November 2016 earthquake. Strong lamb prices and the favourable growing conditions this season have seen farmers hold their stock longer.

“It’s a good time to be a sheep farmer. They’ve had their tough times in the last three to four years in North Canterbury, but it’s their turn to have some good times now.”

PHOTOS: DAVID HILL