Beef + Lamb New Zealand Economic Service chief economist Andrew Burtt says the tally reflects three key influences. “Breeding ewe numbers were down 4.5 percent 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 percent 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 – one million fewer than last spring, due to decreased ewe numbers, lower lambing percentages and fewer lambing hoggets.
Burtt says the average carcase weight is expected to increase slightly – by 0.9 percent – 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 percent.”
Lamb export receipts for 2015-16 are estimated at $2.8 billion, down 4.2 percent 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.
Read the Lamb Crop 2015 report (PDF, 771 KB)