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22 November 2002

Media Release

New Record Lambing Percentage

“The national lambing percentage reached a new record of 124 per cent this spring” according to Brian Speirs, Chief Economist of the Meat and Wool Innovation Economic Service. The Economic Service has just completed its survey of lamb numbers and lambing percentages around the country.

“Not only was this a record, but it eclipsed last season’s record of 119 per cent by a big margin”, said Mr Speirs. Favourable seasonal conditions last summer and autumn put ewes in excellent condition at mating. “Scanning results during the winter confirmed high conception rates, and the potential of those high conception rates has now been realised in this new record lambing percentage”.

“New regional lambing percentage records were achieved in the East Coast of the North Island (123%), Taranaki-Manawatu (126%), and Marlborough-Canterbury (126%)”, said Mr Speirs. “Elsewhere, the Northland-Waikato-Bay of Plenty (114%) and Otago (119%) regions were both within 1 per cent of last season’s record, and Southland (130%) achieved its third-highest lambing percentage”.

“Lambing weather was not as favourable as has been experienced in recent years”, said Mr Speirs. “In particular, coastal regions of Otago and Southland suffered one of the coldest and wettest lambings in the last 20 years. Elsewhere, storms tended to be of short duration with only minor impacts on a regional basis”.

Mr Speirs noted that lambs born to ewe hoggets made up a larger proportion of total lambs born. Over 4 percent of North Island lambs came from hoggets while 2.6 per cent of South Island lambs were from hoggets.

Overall, an estimated 37.0 million lambs were tailed this spring. This was a moderate increase (+2.4%) on the total from last spring, despite a reduction in breeding ewe numbers (·1.3%).

North Island lambs tailed were up an estimated 3.5 per cent (+0.55 million) on the previous year to their highest total since 1991. South Island lamb numbers increased by an estimated 1.6 per cent (+0.33 million).

Otago and Southland were the only regions to have fewer lambs this spring. These regions both had fewer breeding ewes and lower (albeit still high) lambing percentages compared with the previous spring.

Mr Speirs noted that sheep performance had steadily improved throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s. “This new lambing percentage record is built on the widespread adoption of new technology and improved management systems over the last decade”, he said. “In particular, increased fertiliser usage, higher levels of stock nutrition through feed budgeting, use of pregnancy scanning, and genetic improvement of the flock have all contributed to the performance we see today”.

2002-03 Meat Export Season

Based on the number of lambs tailed established from this survey, the export lamb availability for the 2002-03 season lifts 4.0 per cent from the previous year to 24.8 million head. This estimate is based on expectations of sheep numbers remaining stable over the coming year.

Lamb prices are expected to fall from last season’s high level due to an appreciation of the New Zealand dollar against our trading partners. Demand for New Zealand lamb remains good in all markets with prices offshore remaining steady. Expectations are for total lamb export receipts to ease slightly from last season’s $2.5 billion to around $2.4 billion.

For more information, please contact

Brian Speirs Chief Economist 
Phone: (04) 471 6020
DDI: (04) 471 6035

Doug Syme
Senior District Officer
Phone: (06) 835 4629
Fax:(06) 835 4629


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