Sheep numbers steady, cattle numbers are up

STEADY UP: The Tairawhiti sheep flock number has remained steady in the past year, in contrast to the further decline nationally, and the regional beef herd has gone up in number, as it has risen nationally, according to B+LNZ. Picture by Liam Clayton

OVERALL sheep numbers have remained steady in the Gisborne and Wairoa area and good beef prices have encouraged farmers to increase cattle numbers on the East Coast, said Beef and Lamb NZ (B+LNZ) economic service manager for the eastern North Island Stephen Lys.

His comments follow the release of the B+LNZ annual stock survey last week that showed the national beef herd up 2.8 percent, and a decline in the national sheep flock.

“Strong demand from China for Angus and Hereford heifers for live shipment had resulted in a sell-down on young female animals over the last twelve months as farmers reap the profits from good returns, Mr Lys said.

“In an effort to maintain breeding cow numbers in the face of a replacement heifer sell-down, farmers have been culling their cows on the basis of condition as opposed to age.

“As the live shipments have currently ceased, heifers will be retained and recycled into the herd. Beef animals are being held in preference to sheep due to their better returns and their ease of management.”

As for the local sheep flock strengthening prices in the final quarter of 2016-17 (April-June) meant farmers who sold animals received much better pricing than those that sold in the third quarter (January–March), Mr Lys said.

“Feed conditions for the Gisborne area were generally more favourable than last summer, so those farmers able to hold stock until later in the year benefited from the increasing prices, and a higher than usual number of lambs were held over the traditional June balance date.

“While many of these will make it into the main ewe flock, a number will be processed as prime hoggets, at heavier weights.

“Current pricing is close to $7/kg, without any discount for heavy animals, such is the demand from meat processors to secure stock.”

There was a shift towards some prime component on most properties, he said.

“Farmers in the district are also tending to cull ewes based on condition score and teeth wear, instead of simply culling for age.

“This has caused some flow-on issues for farmers on easier country that run a terminal sire flock and usually purchase cull-for-age ewes to be used as replacements because the number of these ewes coming forward for sale is in decline.”

Mr Lys said the poor wool price has meant that some farmers had decided against selling wool and have stored it in woolsheds on farm.

“The poor wool returns have also changed the shearing pattern, with many farmers choosing to defer shearing in the hope that prices will lift while the product is stored on the sheep’s back.”

OVERALL sheep numbers have remained steady in the Gisborne and Wairoa area and good beef prices have encouraged farmers to increase cattle numbers on the East Coast, said Beef and Lamb NZ (B+LNZ) economic service manager for the eastern North Island Stephen Lys.

His comments follow the release of the B+LNZ annual stock survey last week that showed the national beef herd up 2.8 percent, and a decline in the national sheep flock.

“Strong demand from China for Angus and Hereford heifers for live shipment had resulted in a sell-down on young female animals over the last twelve months as farmers reap the profits from good returns, Mr Lys said.

“In an effort to maintain breeding cow numbers in the face of a replacement heifer sell-down, farmers have been culling their cows on the basis of condition as opposed to age.

“As the live shipments have currently ceased, heifers will be retained and recycled into the herd. Beef animals are being held in preference to sheep due to their better returns and their ease of management.”

As for the local sheep flock strengthening prices in the final quarter of 2016-17 (April-June) meant farmers who sold animals received much better pricing than those that sold in the third quarter (January–March), Mr Lys said.

“Feed conditions for the Gisborne area were generally more favourable than last summer, so those farmers able to hold stock until later in the year benefited from the increasing prices, and a higher than usual number of lambs were held over the traditional June balance date.

“While many of these will make it into the main ewe flock, a number will be processed as prime hoggets, at heavier weights.

“Current pricing is close to $7/kg, without any discount for heavy animals, such is the demand from meat processors to secure stock.”

There was a shift towards some prime component on most properties, he said.

“Farmers in the district are also tending to cull ewes based on condition score and teeth wear, instead of simply culling for age.

“This has caused some flow-on issues for farmers on easier country that run a terminal sire flock and usually purchase cull-for-age ewes to be used as replacements because the number of these ewes coming forward for sale is in decline.”

Mr Lys said the poor wool price has meant that some farmers had decided against selling wool and have stored it in woolsheds on farm.

“The poor wool returns have also changed the shearing pattern, with many farmers choosing to defer shearing in the hope that prices will lift while the product is stored on the sheep’s back.”

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