Curtis Wool Direct

Fall in NZ sheep numbers reflects carryover of dry conditions

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This season’s lamb crop is expected to fall by 5.7 per cent compared with last year, says Beef and Lamb New Zealand in its latest season outlook.

The farmer-funded industry group said the crop’s expected decline to 1.5 million head would be due to breeding ewe lambing percentages easing 1.7 percentage points, fewer breeding ewes, and fewer lambs from hoggets compared with the previous season.

In the June year, New Zealand’s total breeding ewe numbers fell by 4.5 per cent to 18.89 million. This was due to decreased numbers in all regions, the largest of which was in Marlborough-Canterbury.

North Island breeding ewe numbers fell by 3 per cent to 8.97 million, while South Island numbers decreased 5.8 per cent to 9.92 million.

“These changes predominantly reflect carryover effects of dry conditions and tight feed supplies in some regions, and some further contribution from new dairy start-ups coming online in 2015,” Beef and Lamb said.

Overall, hogget numbers were down 2.6 per cent to 8.95 million head. This was due to the South Island decreasing 6.2 per cent, underpinned by dry conditions and the limited carrying capacity for these going into winter.

Total sheep numbers for the year to June 30 decreased 4.1 per cent to 28.57 million head, following a 3.2 per cent decline in the previous year.

The largest decline occurred in the South Island, down 6.3 per cent on 2014, to 14.47 million head.

The number of beef cattle as at June 30 was estimated at 3.59 million head, down 2.2 per cent on the previous June and following a 0.8 per cent decline for the previous year.

The largest contributor to the fall was the South Island, where total beef cattle numbers decreased 5.7 per cent, while North Island numbers decreased slightly by 0.8 per cent.

Beef and Lamb said the main reason for the decline was strong beef prices, with some regions having the added impact of tight feed conditions due to bad weather.

Overall, calves weaned for 2015 were estimated to be back by 6.5 per cent compared with last season, driven by a decrease in the beef breeding herd and an expected softening in the calving percentage.

Source: Beef and Lamb New Zealand

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