Sheep meat

New Zealand’s spring lambing lowest for 62 years

Sheep Central, December 1, 2015

NEW Zealand’s spring lambing is down to 23.9 million, the lowest figure recorded in 62 years, Beef+Lamb NZ has reported.

The figure represents a 6.7 percent drop on last year, or 1.7 million fewer lambs. The number is the lowest recorded since 1953.

Sheep on Nithdale Station on New Zealand's North Island

Sheep on Nithdale Station on New Zealand’s North Island

As a result, estimated revenue from lamb exports to the end of September next year will be NZ $2.8 billion, down 4pc on the 2014-15 season.

Beef+Lamb NZ’s economic service said three factors had led to the drop: dry conditions over several seasons lowering ewe numbers by 4.5pc; lambing percentage down because of a lack of feed before winter; and fewer hoggets mated.

Chief economist Andrew Burtt said mutton exports to September next year would also be lower, by an estimated 8pc to NZ$510m.

Another factor is that in some regions, farmers had invested more in beef cattle than in sheep.

“On the positive side of the ledger, better-than-average climatic conditions during lambing this spring meant lamb survival was good, the exception being isolated weather events in the North Island,” Mr Burtt said.

Although dry conditions might be in store because of the predicted El Nino event this summer, some East Coast farmers have spoken to welcomed the good growing conditions so far.

Because of the publicity given to dealing with adverse conditions, farmers were more “match-fit” than they had been in the past, Mr Burtt said.

In the North Island, 11.3 million lambs were tailed – down 0.7 million on last year, but similar to the tally in 2013. In the South Island, 12.6 million lambs were tailed, down  one million on last spring.

The average carcase weight is expected to increase slightly, by 0.9pc, to 18.3kg as a result of lower stocking rates per hectare.

But this would not be sufficient to offset the reduced number of lambs available.

Source: Beef+Lamb NZ

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