Beef and Lamb NZ's, annual stock survey released today, suggests that maybe the fall in sheep numbers is waning, with total sheep estimated to have increased by 2.5%.
While breeding ewe numbers continued to decline, this fall has been overtaken by a large increase in hogget retention. Strong ewe values have improved the profitability of hogget retention, even with poor values for wool.
It is hoped that plenty of these hoggets have been run with the ram, as lambs for slaughter this coming season, as indicated by lower scanning results and lower ewe numbers, will be back again on last year, putting more pressure on the over capacity of the processing industry.
Beef cattle numbers also decreased by 4.3%, although breeding cows increased ,showing some rebuilding of the nations herd.
Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s Economic Service says the signals are there that the sheep flock is stabilising following three consecutive years of dramatic decline. A 2.5 per cent increase in total sheep numbers to 33.20 million head at 30 June 2010 has been driven by the retention of hoggets, up 10.4 per cent on the previous year on both breeding and finishing farms.
Rob Davison reports“The increase in total sheep numbers is driven mainly by the retention of hoggets. Fewer hoggets were kept in previous years as farmers sold off ewe hoggets for cashflow. Also, farmers are expecting good returns for store two-tooths in the coming season, based on strong ewe prices last summer.” Mr Davison says early indications suggest this spring’s total lamb crop will be back on last year’s by around 0.71 million lambs (-2.5 per cent).
Meanwhile, beef cattle numbers at 30 June 2010 decreased 4.3 per cent to 3.92 million. The major decrease occurred amongst finishing cattle from the tight feed supplies for cattle in many regions and a switch back towards lamb finishing which has become more profitable over the last two seasons. Beef breeding cows increased 3.7 per cent to 1.14 million as some rebuilding of the beef herd takes place on the hill country.