Poor weather before and during lambing led to a drop in the lambing percentage on Scottish farms
Quality Meat Scotland analysis of the Scottish Government’s June 2018 Agricultural Census shows that the lambing percentage this spring dropped to a five year low of 122.9 per cent.
The reason of course is primarily poor weather before and during lambing.
There were 8 per cent fewer lambs on Scottish farms than at the same point in 2017, with numbers sliding by 272,600 to 3.14m head.
This left the Scottish lamb crop at a five-year low and 3.9 per cent below its 2013-17 average level.
The effect is being felt more acutely because it follows a 128.3 per cent lambing in 2017 which was in fact the best this century.
Iain Macdonald, Senior Economic Analyst with QMS said: “The lambing percentage had not fallen as feared.
“Indeed, the challenging winter and spring of 2012/2013 had seen the lambing percentage fall as low as 118.7 per cent.
“This year, part of the reason for such a sharp fall in lamb numbers was a significant fall of 4 per cent in ewe numbers on 2017.”
Given that ewe numbers reported in the December census had been slightly above year earlier levels, this points to an increase in ewe mortality.
Elsewhere in the British Isles, sheep numbers are reported using slightly different categories, but it is clear that lamb numbers have also fallen.
Mr MacDonald added: “ However, these declines have been to a lesser extent than in Scotland.
“In England, the lamb crop fell by 1.4 per cent, on a 1.3 per cent higher breeding flock, while the Northern Irish crop contracted by 2 per cent on a 1.1 per cent smaller ewe flock,” he said.
In the Irish Republic, lamb numbers declined by 2.9 per cent on a marginally increased breeding flock.
“A smaller lamb crop appears to have had an impact on slaughterings.
“At the UK level, Defra statistics point to an 8 per cent year-on-year decline in slaughter numbers in the June to September period, with GB auction volumes down heavily over this period.
“The size of this fall suggests that lambs have been taking longer to finish than last year, perhaps signalling that numbers will begin to recover in the final quarter of 2018.”