NZ new season lamb kill off to a slower start

20 October 2016

The New Zealand (NZ) production season for 2016-17 (October 2016 to September 2017) is now underway, although AgriHQ reports that early season lamb slaughter is down from year-ago levels.

The first of the new season lambs reportedly hit the market mid-October, according to AgriHQ. Improved seasonal conditions have seen very good pasture growth, particularly in the South Island, lending little concern around feed levels over summer – a very different story than the same time last year. As a result, many producers are reportedly opting to carry lambs to heavier weights, exacerbating the lower new season lamb production so far. AgriHQ indicate there is some uncertainty surrounding the capacity of new season production levels to fill Christmas chilled trade orders to the EU over the next few weeks.

The latest available data from Statistics NZ is for August – NZ lamb slaughter was down 6% year-on-year and 11% from the five-year average, at 665,702 head. Heavier processing during the first half of the 2015-16 season has reportedly had an impact on kill numbers during the tail-end. 

With one month of the 2015-16 season to go, the October-to-August lamb slaughter total was 4% lower than the corresponding period the previous year, at 19.5 million head. AgriHQ point out that, with the better than average feed levels, the lower slaughter numbers are being somewhat offset by heavier carcases.

At a time when Australian lamb slaughter levels are also lower year-on-year, the tight supplies and strong procurement competition have provided support to the Australian and NZ lamb markets alike. 

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