Lambs fewer but gains up
EXPORT earnings for New Zealand sheep and beef products totalled $5.8 billion last year – an increase of nine per cent, according to Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s economic service annual stock number survey.
The survey shows sheep numbers down 2.1 per cent to 31.9 million while the beef herd stayed almost static at 3.9 million (-0.2 per cent) in the year to June 30, 2011, Beef + Lamb New Zealand economic service executive director, Rob Davison said.
‘‘The decrease in sheep numbers flows on from the tough spring of 2010 and that resulted in a low supply of lambs this year. This in turn has cut back the supply of lambs that can be held over as future breeding flock replacements.’’
Mr Davison said tight global supplies of lamb and sheep meat saw world market prices lift significantly.
‘‘These high prices allowed a higher than usual cull of poorer producing sheep with the objective to improve the flock quality for future breeding seasons and this also contributed to the sheep flock decrease. World market lamb prices were also up significantly on the previous year but the lamb supply from New Zealand remained constrained from the previous spring’s poor lamb crop,’’ he said.
In the year ended June 30, lamb generated $2.7b which is 3.4 per cent ahead of last year but from reduced export volumes (-15 per cent).
Lamb meat at $9300 per tonne was up 17 per cent and co-product receipts, like lamb skins and offal, were also up 17 per cent on the previous year.
‘‘The decline in the ewe flock has ensured mutton export receipts were the standout story – up 35 per cent to $580m with the volume shipped up 15 per cent.
‘‘The price per tonne of mutton shipped was $6425 (+19 per cent) and co-product receipts were up 31 per cent.’’
Mr Davison said beef export receipts at $2.5b were up 14 per cent despite the volume shipped decreasing 3 per cent.
The price per tonne of beef shipped at $5825 per tonne was up 16 per cent and receipts from beef co-products were up 22 per cent.
Within the $5.8b sheep and beef export receipts, meat exports made up $5b (86 per cent) and co-products $800m (14 per cent).
‘‘Strong prices and favourable conditions, particularly from autumn, have boosted confidence on sheep and beef farms. Improved prices this year have provided cash to address legacy issues from successive years of droughts and increased debt levels.
‘‘Reducing debt and catching up on deferred maintenance and fertiliser inputs will certainly be ongoing priorities for the coming year.’’
Mr Davison said early expectations were for this spring’s total lamb crop to be up 1.4 million on last year’s poor result, to 26.2 million lambs.
‘‘But even then this will be the second smallest lamb crop in 50 years. Only last year’s was lower. More lambs are expected born per 100 ewes than last year and will more than offset the 2.5 per cent decrease in breeding numbers this year.
‘‘With this year’s lamb crop up, the yield of lambs for export is estimated at 20.1 million, up 5.8 per cent on last year but the second lowest production in 40 years. Only the year just ending was lower.
‘‘With sheep numbers expected to have bottomed out, a higher retention of lambs for flock replacements is needed for next year to start a small recovery in sheep numbers.’’
The annual Beef + Lamb New Zealand economic service stock number survey records the key livestock numbers that form the productive base for the farming year ending June 30, 2012. The full report can be downloaded from the Beef + Lamb New Zealand website http:/ /www.beeflambnz.com/data/dl/stock— survey.pdf