New Zealand lamb numbers see modest recovery

By Georgi Gyton

- Last updated on GMT

The lambs available for export are estimated to be lower than last season
The lambs available for export are estimated to be lower than last season

Related tags New zealand Domestic sheep Lamb Livestock

Lamb numbers are forecast to have increased by 1.2% on the previous spring, reaching an estimated 25.8 million, according to Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ).

Its Lamp Crop Survey 2014​ indicated there was a modest improvement in numbers, although widespread drought over the past two years continues to impact the sector.

Andrew Burtt, chief economist at B+LNZ’s economic service, said: "The drought meant there was less feed available in the lead-up to mating and ewes were consequently lighter than optimal weights when the ram went out.

"This was particularly the case in the North Island. However, this season, spring weather was better than average, which helped lamb survival, and the average lambing percentage across the country was a respectable 124%."

Looking at the numbers by island, the impact of the drought on the different regions becomes more apparent. Numbers were up 5.5% in the North Island, while in the South Island, 2.6% fewer lambs were tailed.

The survey, which covers more than 500 commercial sheep and beef farms, also suggested that fewer lambs would be processed during 2014-15 compared to the previous year, with the number available for export forecast at 1.9% lower than last season, at 19.95 head.

Burtt explained: "Farmers are holding on to lambs, so they can rebuild sheep numbers, particularly in the North Island."

Average carcase weights are expected to rise slightly to 18.4kg (+0.7%).

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