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New Zealand sheep meat output slips 3pc in past year

Sheep Central, September 5, 2022

Sheep on Nithdale Station on New Zealand’s North Island

NEW Zealand’s sheep meat production was down 3 percent to 274,200 in the 12 months to July from a smaller ewe and lamb slaughter.

Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board red meat analyst Hannah Clarke said 2pc fewer lambs and 3pc less mutton was processed and carcase weights have been slightly lighter on average.

From January to July (inclusive) New Zealand exported 249,000 tonnes of fresh and frozen sheep meat, 8pc (21,600 tonnes) less than the same period a year ago. This has been largely driven by lower shipments to China, marginally offset by increases to the EU (plus the UK) and several Middle Eastern and Asian countries, Ms Clarke said.

The total number of sheep in New Zealand was largely unchanged from a year ago, based on the latest data from Beef + Lamb New Zealand, she said.

As of 30 June, total flock numbers were up 0.2pc to 25.8 million. But the breeding ewe flock recorded a 1.4pc contraction to 16.1 million, although the number of hoggets rose by 3.2pc to 8.8 million. Ewe numbers fell across all regions, but particularly in drought-stricken areas where de-stocking has been more widespread, Ms Clarke said.

Ms Clarke said a combination of fewer breeding ewes, and mixed scanning results following dry conditions at tupping, put the 2022/23 lamb crop at 22.4 million, down 0.8pc from Spring 2021. How the weather behaves heading in the spring will be crucial to how the lamb crop develops, she said.

NZ beef cattle numbers also fell

New Zealand’s beef cattle numbers fell 0.9pc in the year to 30 June, totalling 3.9 million head, and the number of breeding cows was down by 1.1pc . The Spring 2022 calf crop is expected to be 1.2pc smaller than a year ago, with a smaller cow herd and generally poorer cow condition due to dry weather, Ms Clarke said.

Beef production fell by 6pc in the same period, to 452,300 tonnes. Fewer prime cattle (steers, heifers and bulls) have been processed year-on-year — down 5pc or 51,000 head — while fewer cows have also come forward; 9pc less, or 77,000 head.

Ms Clarke said New Zealand’s fresh and frozen beef exports have also fallen during this time, down 7pc year-on-year to 300,000 tonnes. A 25pc fall in shipments to the US has been the main contributor, with less beef sent to many other countries including Switzerland, Taiwan, Indonesia and Australia. Conversely, shipments have risen to China, South Korea, Japan and Malaysia, but not enough to outweigh losses.

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