UK lamb forecast revised down

UK lamb forecast revised down

Poor weather conditions have led to the 2013 UK lamb crop being revised down to 15.8 million head, 8% (1.36 million) lower than the estimated 2012 crop which it was expected to equal, according to the latest forecast from EBLEX/AHDB.

The downgrade, which comes despite a marginal increase in the breeding flock in December 2012, is mainly due to a notable reduction in the lamb rearing rate, which is expected to have fallen by 10 percentage points from the relatively high levels of 2012.

While the prolonged adverse weather since the beginning of 2013 has led to above average lamb losses reported in some regions, undoubtedly making the situation worse, the decline began much earlier in the season.

“It has been clear for some time that the lambing rate would be lower, as the poor weather in 2012 and associated feed problems will have resulted in many ewes being in poor condition at tupping,” said EBLEX/AHDB senior analyst Paul Heyhoe.

“Since then, there has been little opportunity for improvement and this will have impacted significantly on lambing rates even before the bad weather conditions earlier this year.

“At this level, the 2013 lamb crop would be the smallest in many years, as the low rearing rate is compounded by the fact the breeding flock is still around a third lower than it was in the 1990s.”

Despite the anticipated fall in the lamb crop, overall slaughterings in 2013 are forecast to be three per cent higher than 2012 levels, as reduced new season lamb numbers are expected to be balanced by a significant carryover of hoggets being slaughtered during the first half of this year.

The impact of the low 2013 crop is likely to be felt during the second half of 2013 and the first half of 2014, with the lamb kill during this period projected to be seven per cent down year-on-year, provided the season is not further affected by adverse weather conditions. It is difficult to ascertain at this stage what impact this will have on supply in the longer term.

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