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New Zealand Lamb numbers up despite cold snaps

New Zealand Lamb numbers up despite cold snaps

This year’s lamb crop is larger than last year despite storms that caused losses according to Meat & Wool New Zealand’s Economic Service.

The Service’s just completed annual lamb crop survey measures how the lambing season went for farmers and numbers available for the production season ahead.

The survey shows total lambs tailed increased by 2.6 million this spring, taking the national figure up to 35.3 million. North Island lambs tailed were up by 1.5 million and South Island numbers increased by 1.1 million.

The increase on last year was due to a record ewe lambing percentage of 123.3% – which is equivalent to 123 lambs per 100 ewes, and is up from 115.6% last year. Breeding ewe numbers were up 1 per cent on last year and this also added to the increase in lamb numbers.

In addition, the number of lambs from ewe hoggets this spring totalled 1.6 million, 0.3 million more than last year and three times as many as five years ago. Lambs from hoggets made up 4.5 per cent of the total lamb crop this spring.

Meat & Wool New Zealand’s Acting CEO James Smallwood says the results are positive for farmers and have set a record in what was a difficult cold and wet spring.

“This season’s results have eclipsed the 2002 ewe lambing percentage record of 120.1 per cent. The record lambing percentage this spring was largely due to the excellent condition of sheep at mating, resulting in a higher proportion of lambs born, and there were more hoggets mated this season compared to last.”

Mr Smallwood says the survey results show that overall breeding performance has also improved.

“Breeding performance has improved remarkably since 1990, when New Zealand’s lambing percentage averaged about 100 per cent. The improvement in performance has come from the adoption of new technology, improved management systems and improved genetics.”

Mr Smallwood says New Zealand experienced one of its coldest and wettest springs this year, bringing extreme weather conditions and lamb losses in some areas, but lambs born earlier or later had good survival rates.

“Overall, there are a number of farms that will have fewer lambs this year due to storms but this is offset by farms that have experienced an increase in numbers. Record lambing percentages were achieved in all regions with the exception of Taranaki Manawatu which reached its second highest lambing percentage this season,” he said

The survey results show that the export lamb availability for 2004-2005 is estimated to increase by 9.3 per cent to 25.1 million. This is ahead of last season’s low lamb production and brings this season’s production to similar levels to 2002-2003.

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