6 Aug 2012

Sheep and beef cattle numbers up on last year

11:15 am on 6 August 2012

An annual stock survey shows that both sheep and beef cattle numbers have increased in the past financial year.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand's research found that sheep numbers are up by 2.6%, which partly makes up for a decrease of 4.4% in the 2010-2011 year.

Economic service director Rob Davison says the survey sets the base for livestock production in spring.

He says while there was good pastoral production in the past year, the increase in sheep numbers is largely due to stock being carried over on farms for slaughter in August and September.

Mr Davison says the breeding ewe flock, which is important for the lamb crop, is up about 0.6% on last year, but last year the flock had declined about 6%.

He says beef cattle numbers are up to nearly 3.9 million - about 1% more.

Mr Davison says last year there was a 2.6% decline in beef cattle, and it's positive that that trend seems to have been reversed this year.

Projected lamb increase good news

Federated Farmers says the survey's projected increase of one million more lambs this spring is positive news.

Meat and fibre chairperson Jeanette Maxwell says farmers will need every stock unit possible to help bridge an income gap caused by falling prices.

Ms Maxwell says last year's average lamb price of $115 has dropped by 17% this year to $95.

She says an interesting outcome of the survey is that in some regions there has been a return to traditional sheep and beef production, with only Marlborough and Canterbury recording slight falls in stock numbers.