Lamb briefing

Lamb briefing

Increased lamb numbers stemming from the larger breeding flock and higher carcase weights will contribute to continued increased production in the sheep sector in 2012 and 2013. That’s the latest forecast from ADHB market intelligence and EBLEX, the industry body for English beef and sheep producers.

The strong performance of UK sheep meat exports is also set to continue helped by increased domestic production. Imports are expected to continue falling further in 2012, with some stabilisation expected in 2013.

Following on from the strong 2.5% growth in the UK breeding flock in December 2011, further growth is expected over the next two years. However, the volatility of the prime market so far in 2012 has created some uncertainty for producers. This has resulted in the expected growth being revised downwards from previous forecasts with breeding numbers forecast to grow 1% each year rather than the previous expectation of 1.5%.

The lambing rate for the 2012 lamb crop is expected to have been slightly above 2011 levels. This, coupled with the larger flock, could lead to lamb numbers hitting their highest level since 2008.

While more lambs are expected to be on the ground, poor weather conditions over recent months have seriously checked the progress they have made. This has resulted in some shortage of finished lambs in June and July as producers have struggled to finish animals. This is likely to change the pattern of lamb slaughterings for the next 12 months. Production is expected to increase in the second half of 2012 which will result in an overall increase for the year as a whole.

In the first five months of this year exports remained strong and recorded growth of over 2% on the year. Trade figures for May indicated an increase of 5% as production was 7% higher. This indicates that a large portion of any increased production will be marketed to the export trade.

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