Lambs fewer but gains up

Matamata Chronicle - - Rural Delivery -

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

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