Sheep farmers across the UK have this year suffered a huge financial blow following the worst ever lamb losses on record.
Figures were up 30 per cent on the yearly average with the 2018 lambing season hitting about 250,000 lamb deadstock in March, April and May.
Adult losses were also the highest for five years.
This was according to the National Fallen Stock Company (NFSCo) which has monitored the trend since 2011.
It said deadstock in the UK was particularly high due to the extreme weather events of the Beast from the East on February 23 – before continuing through March, the first of three consecutive months where nearly half of all lamb losses occured.
NFSCo chairman Michael Seals said sheep mortality was at its highest ‘probably ever’.
“The data from this year shows that the 2018 lambing season was certainly the worst season since 2013, and probably ever, even factoring in a large allowance for the shortcomings of the data,” he said.
“Lambing time was an extremely challenging time for sheep farmers and for the 100 or so collectors whom NFSCo works with, and who worked hard to maintain their excellent service levels during some of the worst weather the UK has seen in years.”
While NFSCo said calculating the exact number of animals lost at lambing time was ‘impossible’ due to differing types of collection, its figures are the only guide to fallen stock trends in the UK.
This year’s figures jumped above the previous high of about 220,000 in 2013.
Experts said the high death toll had driven up UK lamb prices by about 20p/kg on last year, with old season lamb numbers much tighter towards the end of the season.
Phil Stocker, chief executive of the National Sheep Association, said if it was not for the current strong finished lamb prices, sheep farmers be would be ‘desperate’.
“The service provided by NFSCo and its contractors should be commended even though it is in the face of some alarming losses and significantly higher costs placed on our sheep farming businesses,” he said.