NEW Zealand’s sheep flock is continuing to decline, although hogget numbers have increased as more young ewes are kept as replacements and trade turn-off dropped.
Meat & Livestock Australia said Beef + Lamb NZ’s stock survey has listed the national sheep flock at 27.34 million head at the conclusion of the 2016-17 financial year, back 0.9 percent year-on-year. This decrease predominantly consisted of breeding ewes, which dropped in numbers by 1.9pc to 17.8 million head.
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In the North Island, slow flock rebuilding and the continuing flock decline in the hill country has driven decreases, MLA said. Meanwhile, a shift to less labour intensive farming options, combined with drought in the South Island has fuelled a decrease in numbers and some producers have not yet rebuilt flocks to pre-drought levels.
In contrast, hogget numbers increased by 1.7pc, to 8.71 million head, as producers retained more hoggets for ewe replacement and there was a reduction in trade hoggets. In the South Island, there was an increase in hoggets retained over winter, due to limited finishing ability on some farms and producers wanting to take advantage of good feed supplies, MLA said.
New Zealand’s beef cattle herd increased by 100,000 head, or 2.8pc, to 3.63 million head in 2016-17, with a 5pc increase in weaner cattle numbers being a key factor. A greater number of weaners were also carried over, arising from high cattle prices and good pasture conditions, MLA said.