Forced into no-killing days
The drop in sheep numbers is taking its toll on South Canterbury's two meat processing plants which have both been forced into no-killing days.
Silver Fern Farms' Pareora plant had its third non-killing day this season earlier this week and will close its third ovine chain later this week.
Laying off staff was never easy and it was an issue they took very seriously, plant manager Grant Day said.
Mr Day said they would try to retain as many staff as possible. He could not confirm how many staff would lose their jobs as the company sought to employ them at other plants around Canterbury. The plant's beef operation is due to start in a month and management would look at transferring staff to that department.
"Our kill is the same as this time last year, but the utilisation of the plant this year was up until those no-kill days, 100 per cent, so we were full every day.
"We had a really good run but it's dropped away very quickly."
The late spring in South Canterbury meant there was still plenty of feed available for livestock and farmers were under no pressure to get rid of their lambs to the works.
Lambs were also being held on-farm for longer by farmers as they sought top dollars for heavier weighted lambs. However, Mr Day expected the pressure to come on in the next 6-8 weeks as these sheep come forward to the works.
The aim for the rest of the season was to keep the plant running as efficiently as possible.
"We're aiming to have full days, but as soon as I say that, the situation may change."
The last two Mondays had also been no-kill days at Alliance Group's Smithfield plant. It would be known today if the coming Monday would be a no-kill day, plant manager Rob Lindsay said.
Both of the plant's two chains were working and he had "no intention" of laying off staff.
The livestock shortage was a situation that meat plants nationwide were facing, he said.
"It's part of what's happening in the industry at the moment.
"There is a bit of a shortage of stock out there but we expect that things may pick up a little bit because there is talk of farmers holding onto stock."