In 1982 there were 22 sheep for every person in NZ, but that’s now down to six – and falling.    Our beef herd has increased but the sheep flock continues to decline.   The  beef herd increased by 2.8 per cent to 3.7 million during the 2015-16 season while the number of  sheep dropped  3.0 per cent and now totals 28.3 million.    Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s latest stock number survey shows this year has been an exceptionally trying farming season with facial eczema in the North Island and widespread climatic challenges in other parts of the country particularly, North Canterbury.    Beef + Lamb New Zealand Chief Operating Officer, Cros Spooner says the largest increase in cattle numbers is in weaner cattle across many regions, and  breeding ewe numbers fell with the largest drop in Marlborough and Canterbury –  down 6.5% due to the drought.   North Island ewe numbers decreased 2.9 per cent to 9.0 million and drought affected  South Island numbers dropped 3.3 per cent to 9.5 million.    The lamb crop is expected to be down by 2.9 per cent, to 23.3 million, 700, 000 fewer than last season.
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A breakthrough in protecting our unique to NZ Manuka honey brand.    The Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association says it can now classify what is genuine manuka honey, which it believes is a world first.  The association’s  John Rawcliffe, says  clarification around what constitutes genuine manuka honey will help protect the brand and identify legitimate honey.    Everyone who puts the word ‘manuka’ on a bottle is required to ensure that it is manuka, and now under the UMF quality mark at least it can say ‘this is manuka’.    Scientists have linked back from the nectar unique profile markers that are characteristic of manuka, and then linked it back to the honey.  The researchers utilised the latest technology to find what sets manuka honey apart from the rest.   John Rawcliffe says the research can now also protect kanuka, rewarewa, pohutukawa  and give a real foundation for investment growth in the industry.
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The dairy slump has ripped more than a billion out of Waikato and Bay of Plenty farmers’ pockets.   Farm consultancy group AgFirst’s 2016 Financial Survey shows the average dairy farmer’s net cash income was down $273,000 last season.    When multiplied by the region’s 4800 dairy farms, that’s $1.3b in lost income.   The big question was how much longer farmers can maintain the current situation where they have drastically reduced expenditure.   AgFirst consultant Phil Journeaux​ says   it really comes down to how long banks are willing to cashflow dairy farms.     On the positive side, $250m more was spent in the Waikato BOP region this year thanks to the milksolids payout lifting from $3.90-$4.25/kg, he said.    The survey results are based on information drawn from 22 dairy farms and from  that, a farm model was established to represent the 4800 dairy farms across Waikato and Bay of Plenty.    The average farm was 123 hectares milking  344 cows, and producing around 125,000-130,000kg milksolids.      While the predicted payout for 2016-17 has lifted, the model farm’s budget finished the 2016-17 season with a $32,300 deficit or $0.26/kg milksolids.
 
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One of New Zealand’s most exclusive properties for sale is a big Wanaka farm going for $25 million.     Peter Marshall, a Wanaka-based businessman who was one of a group who founded Eftpos New Zealand in the early 1990s, is an owner of Corbridge, a 343ha cropping farm about five minutes drive from Wanaka.    Mr Marshall bought it about six years ago for $10 million to $11 million.     Real Estate Agents Sotheby’s describes it as  the last magnificent piece of land close to Wanaka with  beautiful undulations, it’s not just flat.   There is a subdivision plan for 34 individual homes sites, the biggest being 2ha so it still leaves most of the property as arable land for recreational use.
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Last week the US opened its market to chilled and frozen Brazilian beef for the first time since 2003. While the move could be significant given the volumes of beef Brazil produces, it appears that the short to medium term impact is likely to be minimal.    Unlike New Zealand,  Brazil does not have its own quota for beef exports to the US.   So it has to share the “other country” quota of 64,805 tonnes with 4 other countries; Meanwhile NZ’s quota limit is 213,402 tonnes.    It is possible for Brazil to export outside of this limit, but if it does the rate of duty lifts from 4.4 cents per kilo to 26.4 %.   These current tariffs are scheduled to change in 2020, and Brazil may be offered a higher quota limit but to date there are no Brazilian plants with export approval to ship to the US.   Even once export accreditation has been gained, food safety will remain a large concern for end-users.    Food safety is paramount for consumers and large-scale end-users will not be willing to  risk reputations on product that has not been proven to meet consumer food safety requirements.
Prime cattle numbers dropped this week, though there was still a decent offering of steers yarded. Reports suggest that most local  trade buyers are full at present and with speculation that local trade may have peaked, the lighter end, and forward store types sold on an easing market. 475-525kg lines averaged $2.97/kg, though heavier steers regained the ground lost last week, with higher yielding types trading up to $3.00-$3.09/kg. The best of the heifers sold to $2.86-$2.90/kg on a slightly softer market, while the main feature of the cow pens was 14 Angus, 554kg, which sold for $2.10/kg.   Nearly half of the small store lamb offering were part of a consignment from Blenheim and demand was limited in the pens.   Lighter ewe lambs sold well though, with 28-29kg making $88 at $3.05/kg.    26-29kg mixed sex made $2.97-$2.99/kg, though prices eased for 32-34kg, with the 33kg indicator knocked back 6cpk.    Corriedale and Merino mixed sex lambs were good forward types and sold for $75-$89.   More processors are looking to the saleyards for lamb as numbers slow to the works. Prices were steady with most trading at $90-$128. Prime ewe numbers dropped significantly to just 251, and the lower number meant prices held. Light to medium ewes sold for $36-$69, with better types earning $77-$101.