The future of lamb

Bill Wright_farm 13 February 2017

Central South Island Director Bill Wright reflects on the future of the sheep industry and trade opportunities for the New Zealand red meat sector.

As always, the hot weather arrives just as the school holidays end.

Dull, overcast weather has meant we have had fantastic pasture growth in our region – with silage pits and hay barns full – but the lack of sunshine has meant lambs have generally been slow to finish. I understand that the meat processors are struggling to keep chains full and export orders supplied.

Challenges for the sheep industry

On the subject of meat processors, it is so frustrating that one of our two co-operatives is making a small profit, the other a loss and we lamb producers continue to be underpaid for lamb. So many attempts at industry restructure have failed and we still ask the same question - why are we not being rewarded for this premium product?

Will the Shanghai Mailing deal with Silver Fern Farms (SFF) prove to be the difference?  At least SFF has no debt.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s recently launched Marketing Development programme will help change the fortune of lamb as we redefine New Zealand’s red meat story on the global market.

Time to negotiate

The world has been transfixed on everything Donald Trump says and does since he assumed the Presidency last month. The first thing to go was the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) which would have benefited NZ’s Red Meat Sector by $70m/year, so we now have to look forward to other opportunities and negotiate individual trade deals.

As has been quoted by B+LNZ chairman James Parsons, TPP would have had a minor impact on the US market due to existing low tariffs, but Australia has a Free Trade Agreement with Japan which has a 10% lower tariff than NZ – so our trade negotiators have work to do. As an exporting nation, we have to maintain our reputation for producing high quality, grass-fed meat with food safety standards second-to-none.

Awarding our industry

Closer to home, the World Shearing Championships are being held in Invercargill this month and are a fantastic opportunity to showcase our industry and country to the rest of the world. I very much look forward to spending a day there.

The annual Glammie Awards at the Wanaka Show in early March are another opportunity to celebrate the best of this country’s lamb with B+LNZ Ambassador Chefs.

Quality sheep in demand

Last week I attended the Temuka two-tooth ewe fair and was pleased to see the market for quality sheep was buoyant. The top-priced ewes – first-cross Border/Romneys – made $230, while the majority sold for $160-180. It certainly shows a degree of confidence in the sheep industry. Over 16,000 two-tooths went under the hammer and there was a similar number in the adult ewe fair.

Closer to home…

On our farm, we are still looking for a major water leak - which is somewhere on the river flats. Lambs are finally getting to killable weights, the barley silage is in the pit, the barley grain is ready for harvest and the last of the bulls and beef cattle have been sent to the works.

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