Meat companies are reporting a further drop in kill rates as farmers make the most of a flush in grass. They are already struggling to fill their hooks.
Beef + Lamb New Zealand's Economic Service says cow and lamb kills are 18% and 14% down on this time last year.
However, mutton slaughter is up 40% on this time last year due to very high store prices and some aggressive marketing by processors to fill hooks.
AFFCO chief executive Hamish Simson says a flush of grass on some farms following rain last month, has meant that farmers are under no pressure to get send their lambs to the works.
Silver Fern Farms says its meat plants are operating at standard throughput levels, when they would normally be at capacity for this time of year.
Chief executive Keith Cooper says the company has had to cut night and weekend shifts.
He says this is very unusual at this time of the year and he expects the pressure to come on in the next six weeks as these sheep come forward to the works.
Mr Cooper says the aim for the rest of the season is to keep plants running as efficiently as possible.