Last season’s drought and the continuation of conversions to dairying has taken its toll on this year’s lamb crop.
Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s (B+LNZ) Lamb Crop 2013 report confirms that the number of lambs tailed across New Zealand is down – by 4.7 per cent – compared with last spring.
A total of 25.5 million head were tailed – 1.3 million fewer than 2012 – making the current lamb crop the second smallest in nearly 60 years. Only 2010-11 was lower.
B+LNZ Economic Service Chief Economist Andrew Burtt says the lamb crop figure is actually higher than many may expect, given the impact of last season’s drought on ewe numbers and ewe condition at mating. “But we’re seeing good lamb thrift compared to last year – thanks to lower stocking rates and favourable pasture growth in most regions. If pasture continues growing at current rates, it could trigger early store sales from regions that are traditionally summer dry.”
When analysed by island, the North Island lamb crop is down 7.4 per cent and the South Island down by 2.3 per cent.
The smaller lamb crop impacts on export processing numbers, which are expected to drop 6.8 per cent to 19.5 million head, making 2013-14 the third lowest export lamb total since 1960.
“However, the average export lamb slaughter weight is expected to increase 2.3 per cent to 18.4kg, due to lower stocking rates and more available feed. This per-head weight increase won’t be enough to offset the drop in numbers and we still expect total lamb production to be down by approximately 5 per cent,” Mr Burtt says.
The national ewe lambing percentage was 120.8 per cent – down 3.8 percentage points on last year’s record 124.6 per cent. Again, the North Island took the biggest hit – down 5.8 percentage points to 117.6 per cent. The South Island’s 123.6 per cent represented a fall of only 2.1 percentage points.
Mr Burtt says a noteworthy feature of spring 2013 was the significant decrease in the number of hoggets mated. “Many farmers opted to limit the numbers of hoggets put to the ram, due to the tight feed situation at mating and hogget weights. The result is only 1.13 million lambs from hoggets – a 17 per cent drop.”
Unsurprisingly, mutton processing numbers are expected to be well back on last season, down 20 per cent to 3.3 million. This reflects the drought-driven high cull of ewes during 2012-13.
The Lamb Crop survey covers about 500 commercial sheep and beef farms, which are statistically representative of New Zealand’s commercial sheep and beef farms. The full report is on the B+LNZ website at: Lamb Crop 2013
Northland-Waikato-Bay of Plenty
• Ewes to ram were down 3.8 per cent due to drought and also increased dairy support activity on sheep and beef farms.
• The ewe lambing percentage was down 5.1 percentage points to 115.8 per cent while the number of lambs from hoggets was down 17 per cent; both of these factors reflect the severity of the drought in the previous summer and early autumn.
• The region’s lamb crop was down 8.4 per cent to 3.1 million lambs and makes up 12 per cent of the New Zealand crop.
East Coast North Island
• Overall the region’s ewes to ram were down 2.5 per cent to 4.7 million though decreases were greater in Hawke’s Bay localities that were most severely affected by drought.
• The ewe lambing percentage was down 5.0 percentage points to 116.6 per cent while the number of lambs from hoggets was down 6.6 per cent to 295,000. Both of these factors reflect the severity of the previous summer early autumn drought particularly in the Hawkes Bay.
• The region’s lamb crop was down 6.5 per cent to 5.77 million lambs which equates to 23 per cent of the New Zealand crop.
• Overall, the region’s ewes to ram were down 1.8 per cent to 2.2 million, however, drought was particularly severe in the Taihape hill country. There was a trend to sell cattle out of the drought regions as a priority ahead of reducing sheep numbers.
• The ewe lambing percentage was down 8.1 percentage points to 121.9 per cent while the number of lambs from hoggets was down 6.5 per cent to 144,000. Both of these factors reflect the severity of drought during the previous summer and early autumn, particularly in the Taihape hill country.
• The region’s lamb crop was down 7.9 per cent on the previous spring to 2.88 million lambs, equivalent to 11 per cent of the New Zealand lamb crop.
• Ewes to ram in the region remained almost static at 4.1 million (+0.6%). This reflects the South Island being much less affected by drought than the North Island.
• The ewe lambing percentage was down 2.6 percentage points to 113.1 per cent while the number of lambs from hoggets was down 29 per cent to 200,000. Both of these factors reflect the drier conditions and lighter condition of stock in the autumn compared with 12 months earlier.
• The region’s lamb crop was down 3.2 per cent on the previous spring to 4.8 million lambs or 19 per cent of the New Zealand lamb crop.
• Ewes to ram in the region remained almost static at 6.6 million (+0.5%).
• The ewe lambing percentage was down 4.8 percentage points to 122.6 per cent in Otago and down 1.4 percentage points to 138.0 per cent in Southland. Although scanning percentages were down on the previous year, weather conditions were good at lambing and lamb survival was excellent. Overall, lambs from hoggets for the combined region were down 21 per cent to 332,000.
• The region’s lamb crop was down 1.9 per cent on the previous spring to 8.9 million lambs – 35 per cent of the New Zealand lamb crop.
The full report is here.
This morning’s announcement of another increase in Fonterra’s forecast payout will put more pressure on conversions to dairying and diary support.