East coast drought hits export lambs

21:38, Feb 17 2009

One and a half million fewer lambs will be available to the export meat trade this year as the effects of the East Coast drought hit home, according to Meat & Wool New Zealand.

At current prices, it means a possible cut of about $100 million from export receipts.

Meat & Wool's survey of lamb numbers at tailing shows 32.4 million lambs were born this year, 1.7 million fewer than last year.

When retention of flock replacements is allowed for, the likely number sent to slaughter is 24.44 million.

The figures come as the Agriculture and Forestry Ministry puts its estimate of the cost to the region of the five-month drought at $701 million over the next three years.

It expects East Coast sheep and beef gross income will fall by $161 million over the three years to the end of 2008-09 because of the drought at a time that income was expected to rise $375 million.


The region, from East Cape to Palliser Bay, contributes around 20 per cent of all sheep and beef farm income in the country and 20 per cent of the sector's national gross domestic product.

Meat & Wool economist Rob Davison said stock in the region had still not recovered from the drought. Spring pasture growth was restricted by continual close grazing, an extended period of westerly gales and insufficient rain.

Feed supplies were still tight in Hawke's Bay, Tararua and Wairarapa, especially on exposed hill country.

Lamb birth weights were low, and poor ewe condition reduced lactation, causing slow lamb growth.


The Dominion Post