The 2023 Lamb Crop Report has been released by Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ).
Farmers have successfully navigated challenges to deliver a great lambing, which will see the expected lamb crop increase by 2.6 percent on last year to 20.9 million head. This result bucks the trend of the last few years.
There were significant weather challenges earlier in the year, but autumn was particularly kind, ensuring breeding ewes were in prime condition and yielded good pregnancy scanning results across the country.
In spring there were favourable conditions leading to a strong lambing percentage of 129.9 percent (up 4.8 percentage points from last year) which has offset a reduction in the number of ewes of 1 percent to produce a strong lamb crop.
However, the optimism stemming from these figures is dampened by the stark financial reality faced by New Zealand sheep and beef farmers at present.
On-farm costs remain high rise and sheep meat prices, in particular, remain stubbornly low due to oversupply from Australia and weak conditions in key markets like China, which means many farmers will not make a profit this year. Beef though remains steady.
Sam McIvor, Chief Executive of B+LNZ, recognises the difficulties farmers face, saying, "We know many of our farmers are struggling, and although the lambing season results should be a reason to celebrate, profitability is a real challenge right now.
“The sector is resilient, however, and has made it through hard times before and has come out the other side even stronger. Farmers know there are economic cycles and they’re agile in responding by looking at every part of their expenditure to ensure it is delivering value.
“The strong lamb crop is a testament to the skill of our farmers and will come as a welcome morale boost as we move into a possible drier period in some regions.”
Many farmers have indicated that they plan to market lambs earlier than usual this year, aiming to have more lambs processed pre-Christmas. This was driven to a large degree by weather forecasts of a potential drought due to El Nino, but so far it has been wetter than usual.
“Weather is something farmers are used to navigating though. The real challenges for farmers the last few years have come from spiralling costs and the challenging global market situation, as well as fears of further increased costs from regulation.
“B+LNZ continues to work with industry partners such as Federated Farmers, DairyNZ and DINZ to ensure the new Government delivers on its promises for a more enabling and supportive environment for farmers.”
The response so far from government has been encouraging, McIvor says, but it will be about getting the detail right.
In these tough times, the B+LNZ Knowledge Hub provides helpful resources for farmers to manage this difficult season.
For media queries, email email@example.com