NZ faces second-smallest lamb crop in decades

NZ faces second-smallest lamb crop in decades

Although normal weather conditions returned this spring, New Zealand is facing its second-smallest lamb crop in 55 years.

The number of lambs tailed this spring totaled 26.51 mill., the Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) Economic Service's annual Lamb Crop Survey shows. Although totaling 1.72 mill. more lambs than last season, the 2011 total represent the second-smallest crop since 1956. Poor numbers tallied last year were a direct result of adverse weather conditions hitting much of the country during the peak of lambing.

While this spring's lambing percentage represents a recovery from last year, other factors are at play, said Rob Davison, B+LNZ economic service director. The relatively small lamb crop will have flow-on effects for New Zealand's international trade, he added.

Carcass weights are predicted to average 18kg, down 1.4% compared with last season's record high of 18.23kg due to more lambs around to finish. Lamb production on a carcass weight basis increased 5.3% to 369,000t.

Early season payments to farmers for prime export lamb are strong, at around NZ$8 to 8.20 per kilogram, Davison said. Indications show these prices will ease back as the season progresses, he added.

The lamb crop is expected to generate NZ$2.9 bill. (US$2.2 bill.) in export receipts - NZ$100 mill. (US$75 mill.) more than 2010/11.
Source: Beef + Lamb New Zealand
Rob Davison