Counting the cost

High lamb losses have been reported on some Southland farms due to the recent snow.

The snow coincided with peak lambing and some farmers had reported 8% to 10% losses for anything born during this time, Agribusiness Consultants Ltd’s consultant Deane Carson said.

"For much of Southland the snow coincided with the end of ewe lambing and losses have been moderate or low.

"Hogget lambing was also beginning and some losses have been experienced where this is done."

The snow was in addition to weeks of wet weather.

"It is the cumulative bad weather effect that is the greatest cause for concern.

"I expect my average client lamb mortality will be 10%-20% higher than normal.

"That translates to about 150-200 lambs lost.

"Many will consider this as $15,000-$20,000 of income lost.

"However, as we know with the 2010 snowstorm, the market can still provide, and the extra pasture available can be used to add value to surviving lambs."

There would also be losses because of wet and muddy conditions.

"Watery mouth disease is prevalent on some properties and we are beginning to see some sheep with mastitis issues."

The weather took both a physical and mental toll on farmers, Mr Carson said.

"To lose animals you deeply care about despite enormous efforts is hard for all.

"Many are telling me they are feeling exhausted and sore.

"It’s a good time to show some love to our farming industry."


I certainly have no sympathy for the farmers. They work in an industry that has known "weather" risks. These are not new. There have been stories every year back for as long as I can remember of lamb losses to snowstorms at this time of the year.
Yet every year they keep doing the same thing. I think it was Mark Twain who described madness as repeating the same activity time after time and expecting a different result.
I kinow the meat processing industry is trying to convince farmers to spread their lambing over a longer period of the year. Trying to market lamb to the European and USA markets is difficult when you have no continuity of supply. It would be an ideal opportunity for snow prone regions to have a later lambing season. But are the farmers interested? No. Why, because it's change and change is bad.
No, I have no sympathy for farmers. The remedy is in their own hand and they refuse to take it.
Let's hope they don't come crying to the Govt for disaster recovery so the taxpayer can absorb the costs of this loss. But I suspect, as usual they'll come begging. Profits before all.

Shame about that physiology/biology thing that means sheep (with very few exceptions) are not capable of getting pregnant and giving birth at other times of the year, making the whole idea of "spreading their lambing over a longer period of the year" very tricky indeed!! And let's not forget the concept of doing the best possible job of matching animal feed demand to grass growth... there are very good reasons that farmers do what they do at the time that they do it.