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Cow slaughter rate may have hit new record

NZN 7/06/2017 Tina Morrison

New Zealand's cow slaughter season got off to a slow start this year as good conditions prompted farmers to keep milking for longer.

However that led to a wave of demand for slaughter late in the season that could have seen the month of May hit a new record for cow slaughter.

The kill season for cows generally starts in March and runs through until the end of May with farmers selecting their least productive dairy cows for slaughter as they prepare for the winter months when there is less feed available.

Farmers have culled heavily in recent years as they sought to reduce stock numbers when milk prices were low, meaning they started this season with less excess stock while good grass growth bolstered the amount of feed available.

The season started off at its slowest pace in five years, with just 41,789 cows slaughtered in the fortnight to March 11, the lowest level for this period since 2012.

"Slow March and April throughput accumulated into May potentially being the largest ever month for cow slaughter in New Zealand," AgriHQ analyst Reece Brick said in his monthly sheep and beef report.

Mr Brick said good pasture conditions in the lead-up to May was the main factor influencing cow slaughter rates, allowing dairy farmers to milk cows for a longer period than previous years, and leading to a wave of dairy cows booked for slaughter in May.

"The favourable early autumn weather conditions meant dairy cows were milked for longer than typical, causing this lagged spike in the cow slaughter.''

The latest figures for the fortnight to May 6 show 63,103 cows were slaughtered in the North Island, 11 per cent more than the same period last year and more than any other year in more than a decade, AgriHQ said.

Slaughter figures for the full month of May are due to be released later this month.

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