The average ewe lambing percentage for 2018 was 129.0 percent, up 1.7 percentage points on last year and up nearly eight percentage points on the average for the previous 10 years (2008-09 to 2017-18) of 121.4 percent.
Overall, this means 129 lambs were born per hundred ewes compared with an average of 121 over the prior 10 years. For spring 2018, a one percentage point change in the New Zealand ewe lambing percentage is equivalent to 174,000 lambs.
The record high lambing percentage is another illustration of the sheep and beef sector’s continuing productivity gains, comments Rob Davison of B+LNZ’s Economic Service.
“The report provides further evidence of sheep and beef farmers doing more with less, continuing an ongoing trend in the wider sector to improve our efficiencies,” he says.
In the North Island, the number of lambs tailed decreased by 3.2 percent because the number of ewes mated declined 3.5 percent as farmers ran relatively more beef cattle, and the lambing percentage was unchanged.
“While this was a record high, there were differences between the regions. There was a sharp increase in Northland-Waikato-BoP, a decrease on the East Coast and little change in Taranaki-Manawatu due to the different conditions in the different regions,” says Davison.
“Autumn and winter conditions were generally good, but a fierce southerly storm affected parts of the East Coast in early September.”
According to the survey, the number of breeding ewes declined 2.1 percent to 17.4 million at 1 July 2018.
In the South Island, the number of lambs increased 1.7 percent (208,000 head) to 12.2 million head.
The increase was influenced by Marlborough-Canterbury where there was an 8.1 percent increase following some difficult years.
In the South Island, the average ewe lambing percentage for 2018 was 129.9, up 3.2 percentage points on 2017.
This was due to a sharp increase in lambing percentage in Marlborough-Canterbury and a smaller increase in Southland, which more than offset a decline in Otago.
“Good climatic conditions occurred through autumn and winter, which were positive for mating and lambing, although there were some isolated weather events that caused losses on the East Coast of the North Island, which no farmer wants to see because they care for their animals,” says Davison.
The number of lambs available for export processing in 2018-19 at 19.05 million head is down 4.1 percent on 2017’s 19.87 million head.
The tonnage of lamb produced is expected to decrease by 4.4 percent due to the combination of fewer lambs and a slightly lower average carcase weight.
B+LNZ Economic Service’s Lamb Crop survey is drawn from its Sheep and Beef Farm Survey, which covers a statistically representative sample of over 500 commercial sheep and beef farms.