New Zealand’s sheep flock decreases due to drought

// Animal Welfare

The total number of sheep in New Zealand decreased 2.3 percent over the past year to 26.21 million, according to Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ)’s annual stock number survey.

sheep herd


Supplementary feed usage increased accordingly, as farmers used expensive feed in order to maintain the condition of their livestock. 

COVID-19 also reduced demand for stock as international trade was disrupted, sale yards were unable to operate, and processing capacity was restricted under social distancing requirements, causing delays of up to six weeks.

The lamb crop is expected to be 4.2 percent lower nationally.

B+LNZ Economic Service Chief Economist Andrew Burtt says that drought meant that farmers decided to have fewer hoggets, weaner cattle, and cows mated, which will have impacts on future stock numbers.

“The impact of the combined decisions to destock younger animals this year will be fewer stock in future years,” said Burtt. “Capital breeding stock may have been retained this year, but the effects of the disruption in 2019-20 will be felt for at least a couple of years.”

Total sheep have declined from 57.85 million in June 1990 to 26.21 million in June 2020.

Download the full Stock Number Survey (PDF, 1.09MB)


For more information, please contact B+LNZ’s Chief Economist Andrew Burtt on 027 652 9543 or Senior Communications Advisor Katie Jans on 027 838 6353.