Flock decline in New Zealand threatens lamb export potential
The trend of steadily declining ewe numbers in New Zealand can put at risk the country's lamb export potential, according to a report released by NZ Beef and Lamb.
New Zealand sheep numbers peaked in 1982, with a total of 70.3 million sheep, but the national flock has been declining since then and latest estimates have the heard sitting at 27.3 million.
Even the productivity reported in lamb percentages (+2%) reported this year won't offset the rate New Zealand's breeding flock is declining, according to AgriHQ senior analyst Mel Croad. "The report has breeding ewe numbers down by over 2 percent this year, which overall has resulted in a lower lamb crop. It has estimated the 2018 lamb crop to be down just under 1 percent this spring to total 23.5 million lambs. The 2018-19 export lamb slaughter was estimated to be 4 percent down on last season, which would make it the lowest export slaughter tally since the 2011-12 season. I guess the biggest problem is we're just not seeing any improvement in breeding numbers and we can't keep relying on productivity gains, I think we've got to see some turn-around... increasing ewe numbers", she said.
Rabobank animal proteins analyst Blake Holgate agreed while sheep farmers had done a good job increasing productivity to help offset the decline of the national flock - exports continued to fall.
"We're at a risk of creating inefficiencies here domestically in terms of processing capacity matched up with our supply, and we will want to see that decline come to an end shortly," he said, according to RadioNZ website.
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