Rural Supplies
Livestock Market Commentary 2018
12 July 2018

Livestock Market Update, July 2018

As bull sales draw to a close across the country we take a look back at some of the sales over the month as well as South Island markets and the effect of mycoplasma bovis around the country.


South Island

The end of June saw last of the South Island bulls sales. Overall Bull sales were well supported and vendors very happy with their prices.

South Island is very much in the winter mode as minimum livestock numbers are coming forward for sale. What is being sold, especially in the sheep sales is seeing very strong pricing, evident on both good lamb and mutton schedules.

The cattle market is starting to rise again due to shortage of prime animals which is normal for this time of the year. 



As farmers react to the mycoplasma bovis infection, livestock markets are feeling the impact and the outbreak is affecting farmers in several different ways.

From grazing decisions, to feeder calf sales, all aspects of pastoral farming are coming under the microscope. Farmers are asking more questions around any business decision, particularly ‘Where have animals come from?’ Traceability is the key issue.

In the wake of the outbreak, demand for all classes of dairy stock is steady.

Plenty of winter grazing is available throughout the country, and the start of the North Island calving season is going well.

One sad side effect of the outbreak is the decision of the IHC to suspend its calf sale fund-raiser this year.



Favourable growing conditions over autumn saw the east coast bulls put up for sale presented in their best condition. Demand for robust, sound hill country cattle was reflected in the strong prices seen across all bull sales here in the last month. 

Kerrah Simmentals in Wairoa kicked off a successful spree, gaining an average of $7910 for 79 bulls sold demonstrating the confidence in terminal breed’s worth in the region. The three Hereford studs in the region put forward docile, growthy sires to reach a combined average of $7849, all going to commercial operations. 

The three days of Angus sales came thick and fast, with Mel Story’s Ratanui Stud setting the tone at the Matawhero sale complex, with full clearance and an average of $9515 for 35 bulls, with two going to stud. Blustery conditions at Penny Hoogerbrug’s Kaharau Angus sale did nothing to deter buyers, with the record sale average of $14970 speaking for the cattle put forward; the quality and substance of all 51 bulls was something the late stud master, Collin Williams would have indeed been proud of. Lot 2, a Braveheart of Stern son, was purchased for the national season top price of $95,000 to Rangatira Angus (Gisborne) and Turiroa Angus (Wairoa). The Angus sales continued, with both local national buyers in attendance, creating a bidding frenzy, which ultimately saw all studs reach near or total clearance, and continue to beat previous averages, some by over $2000. 

A heartening month for the NZ beef industry, particularly here on the east coast, with the value of beef cows fully realised in the demand for good bulls. With the grass slowed here now as the frosts cool the soil, both winter lamb trade and store cattle prices have softened, but prices still firm on SIL ewes. With the shortest day now behind us, we wait now in anticipation for the new season to rear its head, and for some, see the results of new genetics used last mating season. 

And for those that missed out on bulls suitable to put over their heifers this spring, the PGG Wrightson Genetics team can help you find the ideal fit for your operation, Cape Regina to Bluff. 

2 July 2018

Gold medal start for your calves

The quality, quantity and quickness of colostrum intake sets the scene for the lifetime productivity of a calf.

In utero, calves live in a sterile environment where the dam provides all the disease protection necessary. As such, calves are born devoid of antibodies. Over the first 24 hours of life, the calf absorbs whole antibodies, or immunoglobulins (Ig), from colostrum through the intestinal wall. This passive transfer helps calves combat disease and infection during the first few weeks of life.

Calves that fail to absorb enough immunoglobulins in those first 24 hours are said to have suffered Failure of Passive Transfer (FPT). FPT can result in increased mortality rates, disease and long-term reductions in animal productivity. In 2015, Dairy NZ and the Sustainable Farming Fund undertook a study of 4,000 dairy calves from nine regions across New Zealand. The research found that on average 33 percent of all calves fail to absorb enough immunoglobulin-G (IgG), and the range from farm to farm is 5 to 80 percent.

To ensure your calves get off to the best start possible, it pays to review the three Qs: Quality, Quantity and Quickness of colostrum feeding.

The best quality colostrum is taken from healthy cows milked as soon after calving as possible. This “gold colostrum” contains significantly more nutrients compared to whole milk. Gold colostrum
also has the highest concentration of immunoglobulins.1 Not all gold colostrum is created equally. Factors such as first milk volume, immune status of the cow, length of the dry period, dry cow nutrition, age and breed of the cow can affect the concentration of immunoglobulins. To ensure the highest quality colostrum is given to the most vulnerable calves, testing colostrum is strongly recommended.

Testing quality
The Shoof BRIX-scale refractometer enables easy testing of colostrum quality.

  1. Two drops of the colostrum to be tested are placed on the glass prism.
  2. The instrument is then aimed towards the light and the immunoglobulin-G level is read off the internal scale.
  3. Readings above 22 percent indicate high-quality (high immunoglobulin-G) concentration ‘gold’ colostrum. This refractometer tool allows for testing of individual cows as well as pooled colostrum, delivering the best colostrum to your calves for a gold medal result.

Quantity and quickness 
Once the highest quality colostrum is identified, the calf should receive 10 percent of her birth body weight (for example, 3.5 litres for a 35 kg calf) within 6 to 12 hours of birth. A set of bathroom scales at the calf shed is a good idea to ensure we are feeding the right amount to the right calf. While it is acknowledged calving is a very busy time, collecting colostrum twice a day goes a long way to ensuring the calves have the best opportunity to consume the immunoglobulins as quickly as possible to optimise passive transfer. 

1 July 2018 External Supplier

Using the sun to reduce energy costs

Farming, like any business, has a lot of fixed and variable costs that you can’t skimp on. Finding savings in the costs that you can control is crucial to improving cash flow and long-term profitability. Energy is one of these costs.

Over the past few years, solar solutions have become an increasingly viable option for farmers, with lower cost of ownership and advances in technology creating increases in generation efficiencies and storage options.

According to Henry Cassin from the Mercury Solar team, the key to achieving the greatest energy efficiencies is to ensure that you maximise self-consumption on the energy that your system generates. He explains that farmers purchase electricity at more than the buy-back rate offered by electricity retailers of approximately eight cents per kWh. Therefore, increasing self-consumption and reducing export to the grid improves the ROI on any solar system.

Factors that influence system efficiencies include the geographic location of the farm, where the system is installed on the farm, the direction and pitch of the roof (in the case of roof mounted solutions) and ensuring that there is no shading that will impact on the output of the system. In most farming cases though, ground mounted systems are used on unproductive land which negates many of the challenges that roof mounted systems face, such as quality and lifespan of the roof, pitch and direction of the roof and shading.

Cassin points to numerous examples where farmers have reduced their electricity costs by over 20 percent and by simply re-investing their electricity savings into a solar system have managed to pay back their solar systems in well under ten years. Given that most reputable systems have a 25 to 30 year guarantee, in most cases this equates to massive savings over the lifetime of the asset.

Whilst independent tax advice should always be sought by farmers, solar panels are able to be depreciated at 16 percent diminishing value and battery storage at 67 percent diminishing value, contributing to a reduction in the overall cost of ownership.

One of the common misconceptions is that the daily farm working arrangements are impacted during the installation process. According to Cassin, any reputable installer will liaise with the farmer to ensure that there is minimal impact on farming operations. He states that a typical roof mounted farm install takes three to five working days whilst a ground mounted solution may take up to ten days.

“Every farm is different due to location, usage patterns and other factors, so receiving a customised quote for your needs is the best way to assess the solar options for your farm” adds Cassin.

Supplied by Mercury For more information click here

External Supplier

Rural Diary
1 July 2018 Stephanie Sloan

Planning around soil conservation

With the New Zealand government setting a goal to plant one billion trees between 2018 and 2027, estimates suggest that this can encompass a significant area across New Zealand. While 50 percent of that target is associated with current planting rates, making sure that the “right tree is in the right landscape” is critical in your farming system.

Conservation trees have a number of added benefits to your farming system. Having a space-planted conservation tree arrangement provides an extensive interlocking root system, which has the ability to reduce mass movement erosion. Successful space-planted establishment results in water management, topsoil retention and stock benefits, as well as slope protection across erosion prone country.

One of the most effective ways of controlling streambank erosion can be through the establishment of strongly rooting plants. The reinforcement and soil-binding ability of conservation trees, such as willows and poplars, allows for a buffering ability against water speeds in waterways, anchoring stream banks and developing fibrous root systems for interception of nutrient runoff.

Topsoil retention is directly related to annual pasture production. Research undertaken by the New Zealand Poplar and Willow Research Trust1 has shown on-farm costs associated with topsoil erosion include reduced nutrient and water storage and increased repair costs in roads and infrastructure. Pasture production on eroded slopes has an immediate effect, with total pasture production in the long term reaching 80 percent of its original ability.

Shade and shelter are both vital considerations for stock throughout the year. Shelterbelts can successfully provide cover for stock in adverse weather conditions. Shade, particularly in summer months, reduces heat stress and can improve feed conversion efficiency.

Choosing the ‘right tree for the right landscape’ is critical for tree survival after planting and long-term success. For information surrounding ‘What to plant and where in your farming system’, see Figure 1 (below). For ‘Tree management, enabling a symbiotic tree-pasture system’, see Figure 2 (below).

Investment into the protection of erosion-prone land directly impacts long-term pasture production and landowner profitability. For more information, contact your PGG Wrightson Technical Field Representative or the New Zealand Poplar and Willow Trust.

Figure 1: What to plant and where in your farming system
 Slopes  Plant poles across the slope at a spacing of 12 to 15 m apart, with the next row 12 to 15 m above and staggered.
 Tracks Plant two rows of poplar poles 5 to 10 m above the track and 8 to 10 m between poles. Stagger the second row of poles so they provide a maximum barrier to any slip tail from above.
 Waterways Plant waterways where there are issues with bank stability or gully erosion. Plant tree willows at 10 m spacing with osier willows between. Plant between 1 and 2 m from the water course. Native species can replace osier willows or allow the willows to act as a nurse crop for the natural establishment of natives by birds.
 Yards Plant close to a holding yard (1 m) where shade is needed, and protect the tree from stock damage. Plant to allow trunk growth, for example, at least 50 cm from the yard rail. Choose a tree with widespread branches, for example, Chinese poplar, golden elm, weeping willow.
 Shelterbelt Plant narrow form poplars 4 m apart with either osier willows or another species as a second row on the windward side.

Figure 2: Tree management, enabling a symbiotic tree-pasture system
 Year 0 Plant pole, re-ram in early summer.
 Year 3 Reduce to a single leader.
 Year 5 Prune branches to 4 m height using a pole saw.
 Year 9 Prune branches to 6 m height using a pole saw.
 Year 20+ Progressively harvest and replant another pole nearby.

1Information provided by the New Zealand Poplar and Willow Research Trust

Stephanie Sloan

Rural Diary
1 July 2018 Jason Leslie

Top Tips for Downer Cows

Cows can go down at or around calving due to complex interactions of the individual cow’s metabolism and minerals.

Milk fever (hypocalcaemia)

This occurs at calving or the first 48 hours after. It usually happens with older, well-conditioned cows with a low blood calcium. In the early stages, cows are still up but are excitable and uncoordinated Progressively cows go down, become quiet and develop an S-bend in their neck. Severe cases become unresponsive, head along the flank or lying flat out, some bloat and may regurgitate rumen contents and choke.

Before treating, always check that the cow has calved. If mastitis is present seek veterinary advice.

Treatment of milk fever:

» In the early stages, use a 500 ml bag of calcium borogluconate (Metaboost CBG) under the skin of the neck, or over the ribs, as well as an oral calcium drench.
» For recumbent cows, give 500 ml Metaboost CBG slowly into the jugular vein in the neck, providing sufficient calcium for two to four hours.
» Once the cow can swallow and is able to retract her tongue when you grab it, administer Pro-Cal Oral, increasing protection to 12 to 24 hours.
» Some cases of milk fever are complicated by low magnesium or ketosis. In these situations, use a combination bag containing calcium, magnesium and dextrose, for example Metaboost 4 in 1.

Grass staggers (hypomagnesaemia)

This can occur anytime and is associated with lush grass and insufficient effective magnesium supplementation. In the early stages, cows are agitated, twitch and may kick cups off. A drop in milk production can occur at the herd level. Progression leads to excited aggressive behaviour, eventually going down, but remain alert and easily stimulated. Severe cases may seizure before becoming unresponsive. Grass staggers is an emergency, so immediately treat. Staff safety is important when treating, as cows can become very aggressive.

Treatment of grass staggers:

» Mild cases require 500 ml of Metaboost 4 in 1 under the skin, also drench with an oral calcium and magnesium treatment. Repeat bag under the skin in 12 hours or drench cows with Oral Mag, an oral magnesium supplement.
» Severe Cases require 500 ml bag of magnesium sulphate under the skin and call a vet for further advice immediately.

General care of downer cows

To get the best results from your treatment efforts and to look after the welfare of your cows, a nursing programme should be considered.

» Cows become hypothermic, so use a ground sheet and cow cover, and bring into shelter/barn if possible.
» Offer water and high quality food at all times.
» Consider giving a starter oral drench for extra energy, for example Rite-Start or Over the Moon.
» Use lifters for short periods several times daily, roll cows from side to side to help blood circulation in muscles of legs. Never leave cows hanging in clamps/sling.

If you have any specific questions relating to metabolic disorders, contact your local PGG Wrightson Technical Field Representative for specific recommendations.

Sponsored by Animal Health Direct

Jason Leslie

Rural Diary
1 July 2018 Andrew Dowling

Managing Drench Resistance

Blanket use of long-acting drenches on sheep farms can hasten the development of drench resistance. Here are some considerations to help protect the effectiveness of these products.

Primer drenching

This is administering an effective drench which removes the resident susceptible worm population at the time of capsule administration. The drench capsule may take 28 days to remove the current susceptible worm burden, so the primer drench may be beneficial if a high worm burden is present. This is of particular importance in younger sheep. When using a long-acting drench injection containing moxidectin at pre-lamb, then Nilvax® can be used to provide a combination drench.

Refugia management

Refugia is having eggs from drench susceptible worms being passed in the faeces from untreated sheep in every mob of treated sheep. This significantly helps reduce the speed of development of drench resistance. There is no single, simple or absolute way to provide refugia. Each farm situation is different, so knowledge of the individual farm parasite plan is vital.

The refugia animals need to be passing susceptible eggs in the faeces that develop to infective larva and are eaten by a sheep. The immune system in mature ewes may be hindering the egg output of female parasites more so than in two-tooth ewes, so this needs to be taken into account. In a situation where leaving 15 percent of two-tooths untreated to provide effective refugia, 30 percent or more of mature ewes may have to be untreated to give a similar effect. Faecal egg count monitoring of sheep prior to drenching can help determine this. If many of the egg counts are low or zero, then more animals need to be left untreated than in a mob with consistently higher counts.

Undrenched lambs may not be providing significant refugia if they are also ingesting resistant infective larva from the treated ewes. Each paddock needs refugia management, so ideally there are untreated sheep in every mob of treated ewes.


A Faecal Egg Count (FEC) of treated ewes at docking can help to determine the effectiveness of the long-acting drench on your farm. Unfortunately, a zero FEC does not mean that there are no adult worms resident in the sheep, as adult parasites can be present but laying few eggs. The presence of eggs in multiple samples is more of a concern, indicating the spread of drench resistance. A follow up drench efficacy test should be conducted to determine if it is due to drench resistance.

Exit drenching

This is the use of an effective combination anthelmintic at the end of the persistent activity period in both the treated sheep and their lambs. An exit drench removes parasites that have survived the capsule or long-acting injection. This allows the ewe’s gut to be repopulated with infective larva from pasture, reinforcing the need for good refugia management. If an exit drench is not used to remove resistant worms in the sheep, there may be continued spread of these resistant genetics around the farm.

As each situation is different, it is important to have a plan for your farm. For advice around drenching and refugia management, contact your local PGG Wrightson Technical Field Representative.

Sponsored by MSD Animal Health

Andrew Dowling

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