B+LNZ’s Economic Service estimates the number of lambs tailed in spring 2018 was 23.5 million head, down 0.7 per cent (163,000 head) on the previous spring, with the small decline being due to the higher lambing percentage not offsetting the 2.1 per cent decline in breeding ewes.
The average ewe lambing percentage for 2018 was 129.0 per cent, up 1.7 percentage points on last year and up nearly 8 percentage points on the average for the previous 10 years (2008-09 to 2017-18) of 121.4 per cent.
Overall, this means 129 lambs were born per hundred ewes compared with an average of 121 over the prior 10 years. For spring 2018, a one percentage point change in the New Zealand ewe lambing percentage is equivalent to 174,000 lambs.
Rob Davison of B+LNZ’s Economic Service, says the record high lambing percentage is another illustration of the sheep and beef sector's continuing productivity gains.
“The report provides further evidence of sheep and beef farmers doing more with less, continuing an ongoing trend in the wider sector to improve our efficiencies,” says Mr Davison.
In the North Island, the number of lambs tailed decreased by 3.2 per cent because the number of ewes mated declined 3.5 per cent as farmers ran relatively more beef cattle, and the lambing percentage was unchanged.
“While this was a record high, there were differences between the regions. There was a sharp increase in Northland-Waikato-BoP, a decrease on the East Coast and little change in Taranaki-Manawatu due to the different conditions in the different regions,” says Mr Davison.
“Autumn and winter conditions were generally good, but a fierce southerly storm affected parts of the East Coast in early September".
According to the survey, the number of breeding ewes declined 2.1 per cent to 17.4 million at 1 July 2018.
In the South Island, the number of lambs increased 1.7 per cent (208,000 head) to 12.2 million head.
The increase was influenced by Marlborough-Canterbury where there was an 8.1 per cent increase following some difficult years.
In the South Island, the average ewe lambing percentage for 2018 was 129.9, up 3.2 percentage points on 2017.
This was due to a sharp increase in lambing percentage in Marlborough-Canterbury and a smaller increase in Southland, which more than offset a decline in Otago.
“Good climatic conditions occurred through autumn and winter, which were positive for mating and lambing, although there were some isolated weather events that caused losses on the East Coast of the North Island, which no farmer wants to see because they care for their animals,” says Mr Davison.
The number of lambs available for export processing in 2018-19 at 19.05 million head is down 4.1 per cent on 2017’s 19.87 million head.
The tonnage of lamb produced is expected to decrease by 4.4 per cent due to the combination of fewer lambs and a slightly lower average carcase weight.
B+LNZ Economic Service’s Lamb Crop survey is drawn from its Sheep and Beef Farm Survey, which covers a statistically representative sample of over 500 commercial sheep and beef farms.
The B+LNZ Lamb Crop 2018 report is here.
For more information, please contact: Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s Economic Service Executive Director Rob Davison on 04 471 6034 or 027 474 9404, or Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s Senior Communications Advisor Gwynn Compton on 027 838 6353.