According to Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s Lamb Crop 2016, it expects export lamb slaughter to decrease to 19.35 million (m) head compared to 2015-16, a decline of 0.53m.
This has been attributed to fewer breeding ewes. The decrease has been driven by the North Island where the decline is expected to be 6.9% compared to a 1.7% growth in export lamb slaughter numbers in the South Island.
In North Island regions, lamb numbers were affected by the impact of facial eczema on breeding ewe condition and numbers, and wet climatic conditions. Lamb numbers in South Island regions were slightly ahead of last season, due to good climatic conditions, improved lamb thrift and a lift in ewe lambing percentages.
Static slaughter weight
Andrew Burtt, Beef + Lamb New Zealand economic service chief economist, said he expected lamb export receipts to be $2.5bm, slightly down on the previous season. The report added that the average export slaughter weight is expected to remain static but “with the potential to increase if good seasonal conditions persist”.
Overall, the average lambing percentage across the country was up 2.1 percentage points, with the average lambing percentage working out at 123 lambs born per 100 ewes. New Zealand Beef + Lamb said this was achieved because ewes were in good condition, there was enough spring feed, and more lambs were born from hoggets. Over the whole country, there was a 1.3% drop, 0.3m fewer lambs than last year.
In the North Island, 11.3m lambs were tailed – down 0.3m on last year, but up on 2013’s tally. Meanwhile, 12.4m lambs were tailed in the South Island.
Burtt said the report estimates 23.7m lambs were tailed this spring. They came from a breeding ewe flock that was down 3.1% on last year.
“The smaller ewe flock occurred with the shift towards cattle production and the impact of facial eczema in North Island regions,” he said. “Farmers read the climatic signals and made decisions early and the lamb crop result reinforces the impact of those management decisions.”