12 Aug 2010

NZ sheep numbers stabilise after three years of decline

12:48 pm on 12 August 2010

There are signs New Zealand sheep numbers are starting to stabilise after three years of significant decline.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand's Economic Service says sheep numbers have increased by 2.5%, to 33.2 million over past year.

Executive director Rob Davison says it's largely due to farmers keeping back hoggets to rebuild their flocks after three-years of drought.

But Mr Davison says early indications suggest that almost 750,000 fewer lambs will be born this spring.

He says poorer ewe condition heading into lambing has resulted in lower scanning results.

Meanwhile, beef cattle numbers dropped by 4.3% to 3.92 million.

Mr Davison says this was because of tight feed supplies for cattle in many regions and a switch back towards more profitable lamb finishing.