24 Nov 2009

Lamb numbers recover from 51-year low

10:32 am on 24 November 2009

Lamb numbers have recovered from a 51-year low last year, bringing some relief to farmers and meat processors.

Meat and Wool New Zealand's Economic Service estimates the lamb crop has increased by 1.7 million to almost 29 million this year, a lift of more than 6% on the past year.

It says lamb numbers are still well down on the average of the past decade, but good spring conditions in most of the country and a record lambing percentage has helped this year's recovery.

Service director Rob Davison says the percentage of 124 lambs per 100 ewes was well above the previous drought-affected spring.

But offsetting that, he says, has been a drop of more than 3% in the breeding ewe flock, because of drought and dairy herd expansion.

Mr Davison expects 1 million of the extra lambs will be processed for export. Farmers will keep the rest to rebuild their drought-depleted flocks.