More lambs have been born this year, bucking the trend of the past few years.
Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s 2023 lamb crop report shows a 2.6 per cent increase on last year - with nearly 21 million lambs being born this year.
The higher number is in part due to good weather in autumn, which ensured breeding ewes were in prime condition and yielded good pregnancy scanning results across the country.
“In spring, there were favourable conditions leading to a strong lambing percentage of 129.9 per cent (up 4.8 percentage points from last year), which has offset a reduction in the number of ewes of 1 per cent to produce a strong lamb crop.”
But the report said any optimism stemming from the higher lamb numbers was dampened by the financial reality facing New Zealand sheep farmers.
Prices for lamb have fallen significantly this year due to softer demand in international markets and a much larger cull in Australia flooding markets.
Beef + Lamb NZ chief executive Sam McIvor said many farmers were struggling.
“Although the lambing season results should be a reason to celebrate, profitability is a real challenge right now,” he said.
“However, the sector is resilient and has made it through hard times before and come out the other side even stronger.
“Farmers know there are economic cycles, and they’re agile in responding by looking at every part of their expenditure to ensure it is delivering value.”
The strong lamb crop was a testament to the skill of farmers and would come as a welcome morale boost as the country moves into a possible drier period in some regions, McIvor said.