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Lambing showing a spring back

According to a study by Beef and Lamb [BLNZ], land-use change continues to threaten livestock numbers across the country.

BLNZ Stock Number Survey – which supplies an assessment of New Zealand’s sheep flock and beef cattle herd – shows the breeding ewe flock has had a 0.9 per cent reduction this year.

This follows a 5.2 per cent reduction in 2022.

BLNZ chief insight officer Julian Ashby said the breeding flock is the key indicator of the future flock size. It’s trending down and is expected to continue to decline – with land-use change one of the contributing factors.

“The amount of sheep and beef farmland being converted to forestry, along with the cumulative impact of a range of other policies on farm viability, is concerning,” Ashby said.

According to an updated analysis from BLNZ published in July 2023 – and as previously reported by Times-Age – land-use change from pastoral farming to large-scale forestry showed that 200,000ha of sheep and beef farms have been sold into forestry in the past five years.

“We have been saying for some time that there needs to be specific limits on the amount of forestry that can be used to offset fossil fuel emissions
in the ETS,” Ashby said.

“BLNZ is not anti-forestry – we know many farmers are interested in integrating trees into their farms – but there
must be some balance.”

Meanwhile, while spring has sprung, the forecast for lambing is suggesting there’ll be an increase this season.

BLNZ economic service chief economist Andrew Burtt said this is good news for both farmers and exporters and follows favourable autumn conditions for ewes at mating.

BLNZ estimates a 128.2 per cent lambing for ewes in the North Island and 124.2 per cent in the South Island.

The North Island lamb crop is estimated at 9.90 million head, slightly increasing to 20.26 million [0.6 per cent] for spring 2023.

BLNZ Stock survey said the lamb crop forecast is on the rise due to ewes being in “good condition during mating and improved scanning percentages because overall breeding ewe numbers have fallen”.

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