Farmers performing well despite external challenges

// Industry

Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s (B+LNZ) Lamb Crop 2022 report estimates a moderate decrease in lambs born in spring 2022.

image of lambs and ewes

Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s (B+LNZ) Lamb Crop 2022 report shows there is a stark contrast between on-farm performance and farmer sentiment. 

While the focus of the report, produced by B+LNZ’s Economic Service, is to support forecasts that are critical to the industry, it also provides an insight into the challenges farmers are facing and their sentiment.

The report shows the performance of sheep and beef farmers remains high, but sentiment is low.

B+LNZ’s Chief Economist Andrew Burtt says the number of lambs born is positive considering the challenges faced by farmers throughout the year.

“Despite variable climatic conditions nationwide, sheep farmers have again shown their ability to perform consistently,” he says.  

“This is a continuation of the improving productivity and performance of sheep and beef farms as farmers operate under demanding conditions including drought for some and a wet spring for others.

“One interesting factor was a reduction in the number of hoggets mated, particularly in the southern South Island, as farmers were constrained by feed conditions and did not want to put at risk the performance of their whole flock both short and long-term.”

The number of lambs processed in the 2022-23 season is forecast to decrease 1.6 percent to 17.5 million head, while the average carcase weight may be slightly up on 2021-22.

B+LNZ’s Economic Service estimates the number of lambs tailed in spring 2022 decreased by 2.6 percent, or 588,000 head, on the previous spring to 22 million head.

With a small decline in breeding ewe numbers, down 1.4 percent, 22 million lambs tailed in spring 2022 compares with an average of 23.9 million head over the previous 10 years.

In the survey, farmers reported variable lamb growth rates with a wet, slow start to spring for most of the North Island and feed supply being tight for some farms. Labour shortages for meat processors is an issue for the red meat sector and a concern for farmers as we enter summer.

The survey shows the sector is not yet seeing the impact on stock numbers caused by the significant number of sheep and beef farms sold into forestry, particularly carbon-only farming.

This is because there is a significant lag between farm sales and planting of trees – however reduced stock numbers are expected soon. 

“This is a major issue negatively affecting farmers. Information about farmer sentiment was also gathered as part of this survey, and it’s clear that confidence in the future of the sector is very low for some. Farmers are feeling it from all sides at the moment and are rightly concerned about the future.” says B+LNZ CEO Sam McIvor.

“Government inaction on issues like carbon farming has been frustrating and the speed, scale, practicality, and disconnectedness of the environmental reforms has been unreasonable and overwhelming for farmers. This is compounded by concerns that commodity prices may fall in the coming year.”

The report shows some farmers indicated they were considering exiting the sector as a result of these concerns, which could also impact livestock numbers in the future and have flow-on impacts to employees, businesses, and communities in the regions. 

McIvor says B+LNZ is again calling for urgent action by the government on the ETS, which is incentivising this wholesale land use change in carbon farming.  


For more information, please contact B+LNZ’s James Ford on 027 235 9806 or email 

Editors Notes:

  • A lambing percentage of 130.3 percent means 130 lambs were born per hundred ewes.
  • A decrease is forecast in the number of lambs processed for export in the first quarter of the 2022-23 season (from October to December).
  • The total number of lambs processed for export in the 2022-23 season is expected to decrease by 1.6 percent from 17.8 million head in 2021-22 to 17.5 million head.
  • The number of adult sheep processed in the 2022-23 season is expected to decrease 2.1 percent to 3.5 million head.
  • Early season pricing for lamb is behind spring 2021 with expectations for published prime lamb prices to decrease weekly until beyond Christmas. Farmers are concerned that prices will decline faster than has occurred in recent years, putting pressure on farm budgets.
  • The outlook for global sheepmeat is moderately positive for the 2022-23 season. Growing global demand for lamb is apparent, however cost of living concerns in key markets are causing prices to teeter. B+LNZ’s New Season Outlook 2022-23, which was released in October, forecasts a decrease in farmgate lamb and prime sheep prices from last season.
  • The B+LNZ Lamb Crop 2022 report is available on the B+LNZ website here.

North Island

  • The number of lambs tailed in the North Island decreased 3.3 percent (361,000 head) to 10.6 million head.


  • For the northern North Island, drought conditions and a lack of feed impacted ewes during mating and pregnancy. Breeding ewe numbers were down for all North Island regions (2 percent on average).

East Coast

  • Conditions were favourable for the East Coast during summer/autumn and good ewe condition led to an improvement in lambing percentages. Subsequently the East Coast has struggled with persistent wet weather.

South Island

  • Meanwhile, the total number of lambs in the South Island decreased 2 percent (227,000 head) to an estimated 11.4 million head.


  • After several climatically difficult seasons, farmers rebuilt their sheep flocks in Marlborough/Canterbury in 2021-22, including breeding ewes.

Otago/ Southland

  • The number of ewes mated and the average ewe lambing percentage were down in Otago/Southland.
  • Drought in Southland was the critical factor in a decreased lamb crop. Across the South Island, the number of breeding ewes to ram decreased by 0.8 percent while the number of lambs from ewe hoggets decreased 2.7 percent to 1,036,000, equivalent to 4.7 percent of total lambs. Fewer ewe hoggets were put to the ram, particularly in drought-affected areas.