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New Zealand lamb numbers back 10 per cent

23 November 2010
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

New Zealand lamb numbers back 10 per cent

Cold wet conditions during spring hit the 2010 lamb crop hard leaving New Zealand lamb numbers back 10 per cent on last season.

The Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) Economic Service’s annual Lamb Crop Survey released today shows the number of lambs tailed was 25.11million head – 2. 8 million less than last spring - and the largest between - season percentage decrease seen in 21 years.

B+LNZ Economic Service Director, Rob Davison says both islands were affected by the cold and wet weather patterns that saw heavy snow fall to sea level in Southland during late September.

“North Island lamb numbers were back 9.5 per cent, while South Island numbers were back by 10.4 per cent. Any regions where lambing was in full swing in late September were affected.

“Overall, the ewe lambing percentage across the country was 109.6 per cent. That’s 11.9 percentage points lower than last season’s 121.5 per cent – the lowest percentage we’ve seen since the spring of 1995. While scanning results indicated lambing would be back slightly, it was the prolonged, cold wet weather during spring that was ultimately responsible.”

Lambs from hoggets were up 6.2 per cent on last season – this was partly because hoggets generally lamb later in spring and so largely avoided the adverse weather. Hogget lambs this spring made up 4.0 per cent of the total lamb crop.

However, Mr Davison says continuing cooler weather, a lack of sunshine and consequent low pasture growth rates mean across the country, lambs are an average of two or three weeks behind where they would normally be at this time. As a result, early drafts are down in both numbers and average weights.

Fortunately, the decreased lamb numbers do not translate directly to lamb exports.

“We estimate lambs for export will fall 1.4 million (-6.8%) on last season, to 19.5 million. The reason for the lesser decline than the 2.8 million fall in the lamb crop, is that we predict fewer replacement lambs will be retained this season compared with last season’s high retention. This season the trade-off will be to keep fewer replacements to generate cash flow.

“With fewer lambs to finish, average weights are expected to be up 1 per cent on last year to 17.8 kg which would make this the highest on record. The prediction is that farmers will draft as many lambs as possible early to take advantage of the new season lamb schedule prices, then hold off until later in the season, opting to produce heavier weights to maximise per head prices – while at the same time hoping for a decrease in the New Zealand dollar by later in the season.

“Last season’s mid-November lambs were realising $5 to $5.20 per kilogram. This season, we’re ahead of those levels, around $6.10 to $6.30 per kilogram.”

Mr Davison says an active store market has already appeared, driven partly by fewer lamb numbers, but also concerns that the current La Nina weather pattern could deliver a dry summer across the country.

The Lamb Crop Survey is compiled using information gathered by B+LNZ field staff from about 540 properties – equivalent to 4 per cent of the country’s commercial sheep and beef farms.

Read the full Lamb Crop 2010 Survey online at: www.beeflambnz.com/economicservice

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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