WELLINGTON, NZ – Drought conditions in New Zealand's North Island last season has resulted in fewer lambs and cattle, according to Beef + Lamb (B+LNZ) New Zealand Economic Service. The agency is forecasting a 7.7 percent drop in the lamb crop (a decline of 2 million lambs) to 24.43 million head.

Both beef and sheep numbers declined, 1.3 percent and 1 percent respectively, but lamb production was hardest hit. Lamb exports are forecast at 18.6 million head, down 8.5 percent for 2013-14, while beef exports are forecast at 2.2 million head. a decline of 2.7 percent in 2013-14. Drought conditions impacted ewe condition and mating, according to B+LNZ.

“We’re expecting lambing percentages to be down by up to 20 percentage points in the region’s worst hit by drought in the north,” said Andrew Burtt, chief economist for B+LNZ Economic Service. “The South Island fared better and scanning results were down only a few percentage points – and that’s against last season, which was favorable in the south.”

Overall, sheep numbers declined 1 percent to 30.94 million head by June 30, 2013, compared to 31.26 million a year ago. Breeding ewe numbers also eased 1 percent. Figures for all the islands varied, B+LNZ reported.

“Ewe numbers in the North Island decreased by 2.7 percent to 9.52 million, while South Island ewe numbers were almost static (+0.5 percent) at 10.69 million,” Burtt said. “Hogget numbers reflected a similar pattern – back 1.3 percent overall, but down 3.5 percent in the north and up 1 percent in the south.”

Cattle numbers slipped 1.3 percent to 3.69 million head by June 30, down from 3.73 million in 2012.