Beef cattle numbers up while sheep continue to decline

New Zealand used to be famous for the ratio of sheep to humans the country had.

In its heyday in the early 1980s there were around 70 million sheep and just over three million people – or over 23 sheep per person.

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Since then the numbers have steadily declined and figures released recently by Beef + Lamb New Zealand show there are now 27.31 million sheep, a decrease of 0.8 percent on the year before.  

The survey conducted for the year to 30 June 2018 found New Zealand's breeding ewe flock decreased 2.1 percent to 17.37 million.

All regions decreased, driven mostly by strong prices for cull ewes, the report says.

However, hogget numbers increased 2.5 percent to 9.11 million head, with an increase in numbers seen in Marlborough-Canterbury due to ewe hogget retentions sourced from drier regions in the south.

B+LNZ chief economist Andrew Burtt told RadioLIVE's Rural Exchange this shows a lot of confidence in introducing younger animals to the flock.

Beef cattle herd numbers are up, with an increase of 1.9 percent, or 68,000 head, to an estimated 3.68 million head, driven by strong prices in the South Island encouraging farmers to maintain or lift herd sizes.

Watch the full interview with Andrew Burtt above.

Rural Exchange with Hamish McKay, Sarah Perriam and Richard Loe, 5-7am Saturday and Sunday on RadioLIVE