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New Zealand Lamb Crop at 60-Year Low

10 December 2015

NEW ZEALAND - Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s Lamb Crop 2015 report estimates 23.9 million lambs were tailed this spring – the smallest lamb crop since 1953.

However, the sector generated NZ $2.8 billion in export revenue.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand Economic Service chief economist Andrew Burtt says the tally reflects three key influences.

"Breeding ewe numbers were down 4.5 per cent on last year, due to carry over effects of dry conditions in past seasons. Lambing percentages across most of the country were down, as a result of tight feed supplies leading into winter. And fewer hoggets were mated."

In some regions, there was also a slight swing towards increasing beef cattle, at the expense of 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."

Over the country, there was a 6.7 per cent drop – or 1.7 million fewer lambs than last year. 11.3 million lambs were tailed in the North Island – down 0.7 million on last year but similar to 2013's tally.

In the South Island, 12.6 million lambs were tailed – 1.0 million fewer than last spring, due to decreased ewe numbers, lower lambing percentages and fewer lambing hoggets.

Mr Burtt says the average carcase weight is expected to increase slightly – by 0.9 per cent – to 18.3kg, as a result of lower stocking rates per hectare.

"However, this is not sufficient to offset the reduced number of lambs available and we expect total export lamb production to drop by 7.2 per cent."

Lamb export receipts for 2015-16 are estimated at $2.8 billion, down 4.2 per cent on 2014-15.

The lamb crop survey covers 500 commercial sheep and beef farms, which are statistically representative of New Zealand's commercial sheep and beef farms.

Further Reading

You can view the full survey report by clicking here.

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