A good pastoral production year sees New Zealand sheep numbers increase 2.6 per cent and beef cattle numbers increase 1.0 per cent for the year to 30 June 2012, according to the Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) Economic Service.
"This partly makes up for the 4.4 per cent decline in sheep and 2.6 per cent decline in beef cattle the year before," says B+LNZ Economic Service Executive Director, Rob Davison.
B+LNZ's annual stock number survey, which establishes the productive base of livestock for 2012-13, shows that while sheep numbers were up 2.6 per cent most of this increase will be stock carried over for slaughter in July-September.
"Breeding ewe numbers at 20.61 million are almost static (+0.6 per cent) on the previous June when ewe numbers fell six per cent per cent to a low of 20.49 million.
Strong mutton prices earlier in the year encouraged a high slaughter of cull ewes for the second year in a row.
The offset to this was a high retention of ewe hoggets (+10 per cent) last July which by 30 June 2012 were mature first time in lamb ewes.
"Ewe condition is good across the country. Scanning results for most regions show in-lamb ewes are carrying more multiple lambs with the general comment that scanning percentages are up five to 10 per cent on last year.
"All we need now is an excellent spring to ensure high survival of the lambs born."
Davison said the scanning results lead to expectations that the 2012 lamb crop could be up on last spring by 1.0 million lambs (+4 per cent).
This outcome would lift the ewe flock performance measured by lambing percentage to around the highest achieved, which in 2009-10 was 123 per cent.
There is potential to exceed this performance level. Each 1 percentage point change in lambing percentage equates to 200,000 lambs.
Beef cattle numbers increased 1.0 per cent to 3.88 million and partly reversed the 2.6 per cent decline for the previous year. North Island beef cattle numbers increased 3.6 per cent with increases in both the beef cow herd and weaner cattle numbers.
The South Island beef herd in contrast decreased 5.7 per cent.
This decrease came from earlier slaughter due to good seasonal conditions so that fewer cattle were on hand at 30 June 2012, coupled to pressure from alternative land uses that include dairy grazing.
Davison says the Economic Service estimates the dairy herd increased 3.2 per cent with part of this increase a carry-over of older cows in the North Island due to excellent growing conditions.
Source: Argentine Beef Packers S.A.
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