Fewer lambs are expected in Canterbury this spring.
North Canterbury contractor Daniel Wheeler said scanning percentages were down by 15 per cent to 20 per cent across the region, and the scanning period is almost complete.
Wheeler has clients all over North Canterbury, as well as some in South Canterbury and the West Coast.
The poor results seemed to be consistent across the board.
''We've got high lamb prices, but we're looking a bit short on lambs, so there are a few guys a bit disappointed.
''But nature's a good leveller, so it may not be a bad thing. It may be that farmers won't lose as many lambs, with guys going from lots of triplets to just a few triplets, but it really depends on the weather.
''Unless we get an exceptional spring we will see a lower number of lambs.''
The reasons for the lower scanning percentages varied in different areas, but the most common causes seemed to be poor pasture quality during the summer, the dry autumn and a high incidence of worms before winter.
''There's plenty of guys who were drenching adult sheep, when they wouldn't normally have to do it.''
Indications were that those lambing later had slightly higher scanning results.
While he was ''hellishly optimistic'' about the future of the sheep industry, Wheeler said there was a mixed mood among the farmers he visited.
''I would say it varies between cautious optimism to puzzling pessimism.
''The outlook for lambs is good on the international market and we've got great management and genetic tools to use today.
''But there seems to be a cautiousness among farmers because we have been burned before when prices have been high and then plummeted back down.''