Meatworks now chasing stock
Farmers can offload stock to meat works immediately, a major change from during the drought when they were waiting up to four weeks to get stock killed.
Now the grass is growing there is little stock coming forward because farmers are not under the same feed-pressure to get rid of sheep, beef and dairy cattle.
At the height of the drought, farmers said it could take up to a month to get sheep and cattle in to meat works, and the plants were often able to take and process only half the numbers farmers wanted. But that has all changed. Beef + Lamb chairman Mike Petersen said there was now no wait and many meat works were chasing stock for processing.
‘‘At the height of the drought, we saw big numbers of animals coming forward,’’ he said.
‘‘Now farmers are down to their overwintering numbers, and the breeding stock on farms is well down on usual.’’
Mr Petersen said there was over-capacity in the meat industry for a reason and it worked at times of pressure (such as during a drought) and at the peak-kill time.
‘‘But now we’re thinking what is the cost on the sector of this over-capacity?’’ he said.
Mr Petersen said all stock could be killed in 25-30 weeks, if it was a steady flow.
Industry sources said over-capacity in the meat industry was about half, and 20 per cent over-capacity would be more reasonable and cost-effective.
Mr Petersen said the kill was well ahead of the same time last year.
Lamb is 12 per cent ahead across the whole country and sheep 23 per cent up, and 40 per cent ahead in the North Island, as farmers have had to kill their breeding stock.
And he said 200,000 (40 per cent) more cows had been killed across New Zealand.
In the North Island, where the drought was most damaging, the beef and dairy cow kill was 48 per cent up on last year.
Mr Petersen said the number of beef steers and heifers killed was on a par with 2012.
There was a shortage of lamb for killing in the South Island and the price had gone up.
Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills said sheep farmers were receiving as low as $4.45 a kilogram for lamb in the meat schedule and although this had picked up lately by 20 cents to 30c a kilogram, prices were down by at least a third from a year ago.
Furthermore, the industry was expecting the lamb drop to be down by about three million next season, as fewer hoggets were mated, some ewes were culled during the drought, and there are likely to be fewer multiple births as a result of thinner ewes going to the ram.