Extra grazing slows start to meat season

Darryl Tones
Darryl Tones
Good grass growth has dominated the season for central South Island meat processors.

Anzco Foods Canterbury processing general manager Darryl Tones said wet weather before Christmas caused a slower than usual start to the season but meant farmers had quite a lot of feed and the stock was in good condition.

The plant was running at ''full seasonal capacity for beef and lamb with day and night shifts operating for both'', Mr Tones said.

There were still seasonal job opportunities available at the plant.

''Staffing for the season is a challenge and seasonal employment opportunities exist at the site.''

Silver Fern Farms said the abundance of feed affected stock flows, especially lamb, through December. Farmers kept stock on the land to manage pastures.

''We expect the stock to come forward over coming weeks to beat the coming correction in farm-gate prices and before stock get too fat and fall out of spec for Easter chilled orders,'' the company said in a newsletter.

Production for chilled Easter orders started this week. The main items were whole legs, augmented with high-value middle cuts including boneless loins, tenderloins, and Frenched racks.

Beef supply and demand remained stable, although there was uncertainty in the United States political situation. High volumes from Brazil were affecting the EU, and Silver Fern was looking out for the impact of the Australian heatwave on that country's production.

Venison prices have eased, the newsletter said.

''It is our view that the historical highs received during last season are gone, and there is a need to ease pricing to maintain New Zealand venison's position in the market, and to try to create a re-establishment of the market.''

The Alliance Group is running two sheep and lamb chains and one venison chain at its Smithfield plant, employing 550 people.

The Pukeuri plant has nearly 1000 staff operating three lamb and mutton chains and one beef chain.

Alliance livestock and shareholder services general manager Heather Stacy said stock had not fared well in some areas.

''There has been strong grass growth as a result of the high rainfall and farmers have been holding stock to manage pasture quality.

''Even with increased stocking rates and high conservation of baleage and silage, some farmers are finding it challenging to maintain pasture quality.

''In many areas, stock haven't done particularly well as a consequence of lower sunlight hours, lush feed and the flow-on impact on nutritional quality of the pasture.''

Now conditions had settled, the company expected stock growth rates to ''take off''.

''However, with the higher forecast temperatures and the potential dry spell, we're encouraging farmers to keep in regular contact with their livestock representative to ensure that they have stock booked in for processing ahead of any pinch point with capacity.

Processing of chilled Easter product, which commanded a greater premium than frozen, has started, Ms Stacy said.

''At the end of the chilled lamb programme, the product mix will shift to a higher percentage of frozen and prices will ease to reflect this.''

Alliance offered a minimum price contract for bulls in February and March. It recommended farmers plan cattle processing well in advance.

Oamaru Meats has been busy right throughout Christmas and the New Year and was working on Saturdays, director Richard Thorp said.

Although it had ''some awesome staff'', more were needed to ramp up production and avoid missing out on export receipts, he said.

The company was ''advertising expensively'' and had lodged an application with Immigration New Zealand.

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