Two million up but still the third-smallest on record since
the early 1950s. Photo supplied.
New Zealand's lamb crop might be up by nearly two million
this spring, but it is still the third-smallest on record since
the early 1950s.
An estimated 26.9 million lambs were tailed, which was up 1.9
million on last year, Beef and Lamb New Zealand economic
service's latest report shows.
Executive director Rob Davison attributed the increase to
slightly more ewes mated (up 0.6%), favourable feed
conditions before mating, and an increase in the number of
lambs born from hoggets.
The average lambing percentage nationally was 123 lambs born
per hundred ewes which was up from 119 in 2011.
While there were pockets of unfavourable weather in some
areas during lambing, farm-management practices ensured good
survival, Mr Davison said.
North Island lamb numbers were up 8.2% (990,000 head) to
13.13 million head, while South Island numbers were up 3%
(398,000 head) to 13.74 million.
In Otago-Southland, the number of ewes to the ram increased
1.7% to 6.61 million, with the largest portion of the
increase in Otago.
Lambing percentages increased 2.7% and 1.9% to 127.4% and
128% for Otago and Southland respectively.
The largest increase occurred on high-country farms, with a
shift in farming practice on some properties towards
crossbred ewes from merino.
Central Otago and Strath Taieri farms experienced excellent
rainfall and pasture growth rates before mating which led to
"exceptional" ewe condition at mating for the second
Hogget mating increased 7% in Otago-Southland.
The total number of lambs increased 6.3% to 4.58 million for
Otago, and 2.4% to 4.26 million for Southland.
The service forecast there would be 20.5 million lambs
available nationally for processing in the 2012-13 season -
up an estimated 8.4%. That contrasted with last season's 18.9
million, the lowest since 1960-61.
The increase would be partially offset by an expected 2.1%
decrease in average carcass weight to 18.3kg.
That followed a return to more normal climatic conditions
after good growing conditions last season produced lambs that
reached a record 18.7kg.
While there would be more lambs, there had been a sharp
correction in lamb prices, with $5-$6/kg early in the season,
compared to more than $8/kg in 2011.
A weakening outlook for schedule prices was creating
uncertainty around early drafting decisions because livestock
weight gains due to slow pasture growth rates might be
outpaced by expected schedule declines, the report said.
Increased lamb numbers for more regions could mean some farms
draft early if pasture growth rates became restricted,
triggering early store sales on traditionally summer-dry