13 Aug 2014

Grass growth boosts beef cattle herds

3:29 pm on 13 August 2014

The number of beef cattle being farmed in New Zealand has risen for the first time in seven seasons, partly because better pasture growth has enabled farmers to retain stock.

A herd of angus cattle on a beef station at Tarata

A herd of angus cattle on a beef station at Tarata Photo: PHOTO NZ

Beef and Lamb New Zealand's economic service chief economist Andrew Burtt says favourable weather is one of the reasons numbers rose by 1.6 percent in the 2013/14 season, to sit above 3.7 million beef cattle.

"That really reflects the much better feed conditions this season than we saw in the last couple of years," he said. "Because most of the beef cattle are in the North Island, the drought really impacted them in the last couple of years."

Mr Burtt said sheep numbers are now at their lowest level now since the 1930s - sitting at 29.8 million.

He said they're being driven down by the demand for mutton from China which is leading to a high number of older sheep being processed.

The South Island's dairy herd continues to grow - last season it rose by more than 2 percent.

Mr Burtt said dairy farm conversions mean there are fewer sheep.

One of the challenges was going to be with lower milk prices and the industry had yet to see how that downturn would affect the rate of dairy conversions.

Mr Burtt said another question was how the relatively high meat prices and strong demand for meat, affected graziers focussed on dry-stock farming.

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