Marlborough sheep farmers are reeling from the dramatic drop in lamb returns, after the gains of last year, says Awatere farmer Greg Harris.
A dry cold spring, poor lamb survival rates and poor lamb growth had compounded the effects of the severely reduced lamb prices paid this year, Mr Harris said.
"People could be making a third or a half less of their budgeted lamb income for the season, and that's hugely detrimental to our bottom line."
Lambs were slow to fatten up because of the poor pasture growth in spring, and for the first time in years, he had sold his lamb store rather than fattening them on farm.
"Nationally, stock firms are reporting lamb growth as 20 per cent behind the usual growth rate, the compounding affects of that is pretty huge."
Farmers tried to manage the variables of the climate and exchange rate by diversifying with sheep, cattle and wool, but the the volatility of prices was impossible to predict, he said.
"Farmers will be looking at getting through February and March now and hoping for some good autumn growth to get them through winter."
- The Marlborough Express