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UK Lamb Production Expected to Continue to Rise

19 August 2014


UK - The supply of lambs for the remainder of 2014 and into 2015 should be higher because of a larger breeding flock and better lambing rates, so total UK sheep meat production is forecast to increase.

However, this is still not a return to pre-2010 supply levels and with exports broadly strong, lower imports and domestic consumption set to be largely level, the supplies of sheep meat on the UK market are expected to be broadly in line with an increase in domestic demand.

These forecasts are based on a breeding flock of 14.5 million head in December 2013, a two per cent increase on 2012.

Although Defra reported a higher figure, this figure is adjusted to account for Welsh data collection method changes.

Some further growth, to 14.7 million head, is factored in for 2015, as seasonal conditions and markets have improved over the past 12 months, which is expected to boost confidence and lead to a slight increase in the national breeding flock size.

It is also expected that, after more favourable weather for most of 2013-2014, lambing rates will improve to a national average of over 122 per cent for 2014, compared with about 117 per cent in 2013.

Consequently, the lamb kill in 2014 is forecast to be up five per cent year on year at 13.06 million head, despite being down in the first part of the year.

If conditions remain favourable, the expectation is for further uplift in 2015.

Lamb weights are expected to remain slightly higher for the rest of 2014. For 2015, broadly average weights are currently forecast, as much will rely on seasonal conditions.

Following low levels in 2012, adult sheep slaughterings in 2013 were 12 per cent higher than year earlier levels at 2.07 million head. The current projection is for this to slow in 2014 to 1.88 million head.

With higher carcase weights and lamb kill numbers, total UK sheep meat production for 2014 is forecast to be four per cent higher at 302,000 tonnes, with lower mutton production partly offset by increased lamb production.

This prediction would see UK production above 300,000 tonnes for the first time since 2009.

Export forecasts represent just over 37 per cent of 2014 production.

Following strong growth in 2013, the 2014 forecast is nearly 4 per cent higher, as global demand remains good.

While increased availability should drive volumes, there are concerns over the economic situation in some European markets and unfavourable movement of Sterling against the Euro.

However, this influences prices rather than total volumes.

Despite higher import volumes in 2013, volumes were tracking below year earlier levels by the end of the year which will likely continue for much of 2014, as supplies in New Zealand, in particular, are forecast to be tighter. However, other suppliers have gone some way towards plugging this gap, so projections have been revised upwards, but remain lower than 2013.

Actual and Forecast Supplies of Lamb and Mutton in UK (‘000 tonnes)
  2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Sheep meat production 305.9 276.1 289.2 275.6 289.4 302.1 303.6
Imports (a) 136.1 119.8 103.1 99.8 113.2 110.3 111.3
Exports (a) 96.8 91.9 102.6 98.1 109.2 113.1 113.4
Total for Consumption 344.8 304.1 289.6 277.3 293.5 299.4 301.5

a: Carcase weight equivalent. All figures subject to revision. Figures may be rounded. Source: AHDB/EBLEX/DEFRA/HMRC

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