Farmers warned to expect processing delays

// Animal Welfare // Industry

Farmers are being encouraged to keep in close contact with their livestock representatives as widespread processing delays mean stock may need to be held on farm longer than anticipated.

meat processing

A combination of Covid-related disruptions and large stock volumes are impacting processors and creating longer than usual wait times, particularly for sheep.

Silver Fern Farms say that after a favourable start to the season, the past two weeks have been challenging, with Covid impacting processing sites. This has meant the reintroduction of additional controls and procedures to protect their people and maintain their quality and safety standards.

Even though they have greater labour availability this season, they have seen absenteeism increase dramatically with this being most acutely felt across their sheepmeat plants.

Over the past two weeks, Silver Fern Farms has needed to reduce planned sheepmeat capacity by 20-30% and beef capacity by 12%. Unfortunately, this has coincided with the start of weaning of lambs in some regions. Venison capacity has continued to match supply.
While capacity has begun to rebuild, and the cooperative can take advantage of more favourable labour settings, they caution farmers that longer wait times are likely.

“The last two weeks has clearly reminded us how quickly things can change, and it is important farmers build resilience on farm to manage this type of disruption.”

  Silver Fern Farms say they are closely monitoring Covid numbers, with a focus on maximising available processing capacity.

They say it is difficult to give an exact view on wait times by stock class as livestock forecasts continue to build. For context, the livestock volumes waiting to be processed are the largest they have seen in five years.

“Our people in plant are doing an outstanding job on increasing capacity when labour becomes available again, but farmers should prepare for longer wait times, especially in sheepmeats, as the impact of the last two weeks will carry into the new year.”

Will Halliday, Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s Senior Advisor Animal Welfare and Biosecurity, reiterates the importance of staying in touch with livestock reps and planning for delays.

He says while recent rain in most regions has taken the pressure off feed supplies, farmers should anticipate having to hold onto stock for longer than they had planned.

“Identify your priority stock classes and those that can be maintained over the summer months and most importantly, monitor the situation weekly and identify levers that can be pulled if processing delays continue into autumn.”