Meat plants in the South Island and parts of the North Island are running at full stretch to cope with the surge of stock coming off farms running out of feed in the parched conditions.
Silver Fern Farms chief executive Dean Hamilton said it had all its chains operating and was running day and night shifts to clear the backlog.
He said the continuing high prices for export beef were adding to the pressure for processing space.
"There has been a surge in the number of dairy cows being slaughtered as well, as dairy farmers cull out poorer producing cows in response to those good beef prices and lower milk prices.
"You're seeing still strong manufacturing beef prices in the US, and a weaker kiwi against the US, so that's translating into good net New Zealand prices."
He said the lower milk payout and the higher cost of holding onto the stock had combined to push more stock into processing plants.