UK lamb forecast revised down

Fewer lambs will be reared in the UK this year, partly down to poor weather conditions, leading to an 8% decrease on the estimated crop.

Figures for the 2013 UK lamb crop were revised down to 15.8m a head by Eblex yesterday, which is a reduction of 1.36m.

Lamb numbers were expected to equal last year’s and Eblex said the downgrade has come despite a “marginal increase in the breeding flock in December 2012”. Although there was an increase in the breeding flock, there was also a notable reduction in lamb rearing of around 10%.

Senior analyst at Eblex and AHDB Paul Heyhoe explained: “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.”

Heyhoe added that, since then, there has been limited opportunity, which will have impacted on lambing rates, even before the adverse weather 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,” he said.
Although a fall in the lamb crop is anticipated, overall slaughterings in 2013 are forecast to be 3% higher than 2012 levels “as reduced new-season lamb numbers are expected to be balanced by a significant carry-over of hoggets being slaughtered during the first half of this year”, Heyhoe said.

The second half of 2013 and the first half of 2014 will see the impact of the low crop hit, said Eblex. Meanwhile, lamb killing during this period has been predicted to be 7% down on last year, provided the weather does not impact as strongly as it has this year.  

Eblex said: “It is difficult to ascertain at this stage what impact this will have on supply in the longer term.”

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