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Story: Sheep farming

Growth of the frozen meat trade, 1882–2001

Growth of the frozen meat trade, 1882–2001

The expansion of the frozen meat trade (including mutton, lamb, beef and veal) between 1882 and 1982 was a vital factor in New Zealand’s economic growth. However, although frozen meat exports grew overall, there were times when prices and sales fell dramatically, due to international economic conditions.

Since the early 1980s, frozen meat exports have been steady, despite the fall in sheep numbers – from nearly 70 million in 1981 to around 40 million in 2002. This is partly due to an increase in beef exports, but is mainly because of increased sheep productivity. The national lambing percentage has increased from about 100% (one lamb per ewe) in 1990 to 120% (1.2 lambs per ewe) in 2005, while the average lamb carcass weight has risen from 12.5 kilograms to over 16 kilograms.

Source: Statistics New Zealand

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How to cite this page:

Hugh Stringleman and Robert Peden. 'Sheep farming', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 27-Sep-11