Total sheep numbers in New Zealand at the end of June 2015 had declined 4.1 per cent on the previous year to 28.6 million head, driven by a decrease in both the number of breeding ewes and hoggets, according to the latest figures released by Beef and Lamb New Zealand.
With fewer breeding ewes on the ground compounded by drought conditions in North Island, lamb production for the forthcoming 2015-16 season is also expected to be down.
BLNZ has estimated the 2015-16 lamb crop at 23.8 million, a decline of 7.2 per cent on the previous crop. The average lambing percentage is also expected to be down, however spring lambing conditions will determine the total lamb crop.
“As a result the export lamb slaughter is predicted to decline 7.4 per cent to 19.4 million head,” according to Charlotte Morris, industry information officer at Hybu Cig Cymru, the Wales-based red meat promotion agency.
“Taking all these factors into account, the export lamb production is forecast to decline 6.3 per cent to 354,600 tonnes, though it is difficult to predict how much of their exports will end up in the UK because exchange rates are so influential - but it could all add up to a positive impact on the domestic market around the Christmas and New Year time.”
BLNZ has also reported that New Zealand’s largest market, China, is expected to increase lamb production, as high prices have incentivised Chinese producers to increase production.
Consequently export volumes from New Zealand to China are expected to be lower during the 2015-16 season.