It could lead to a large number of lambs on farm going into late autumn
Lower lamb slaughter numbers could point to a large number of lambs on farms going into late autumn, according to Quality Meat Scotland (QMS).
The June agricultural census showed an increase in lambs on Scottish farms of 2.8 per cent compared to the 2015 lamb crop, an increase of almost 100,000 animals.
UK slaughter statistics reported lower volumes of lambs slaughtered between June and the end of September.
Stuart Ashworth, head of economic services at QMS, said: “Not only have there been fewer lambs slaughtered, but carcase weights are also lower suggesting, perhaps, slower growth rates.
“Auction market throughputs during October have, however, been higher than last year’s levels.”
While the lamb price has shown strength in November and December, Mr Ashworth said the extra volume of lambs, suggested by the census results, may constrain this seasonal movement this year.
In Ireland, abattoir throughput was also lower in summer and autumn with the June census showing a modest increase in the lamb crop.
French lamb slaughterings were also down but the long term decline in breeding sheep numbers means there are fewer lambs available.
While this could create some export opportunities, there has been a decline of 10 per cent in sheepmeat imports between January and July compared to the previous year as lamb consumption is also slowly falling in France.
Sheepmeat production from the dominant global exporting nations, Australia and New Zealand, is expected to contract during the 2016/2017 season.
This follows on from continuing decline in the New Zealand sheep flock, with the total number of ewes put to the ram in Australia reportedly down fifteen per cent on the year during June, AHDB has claimed, with supplies available for export expected to be lower next year.
With the value of sterling remaining weak, and possibly more UK lambs available this winter, there is a potential for UK producers to capitalise on falling supplies.
According to Beef and Lamb New Zealand, the estimated lamb crop for the 2016/2017 season, as at June 30, was just under three per cent back on the previous year at 23.3 million head. As the largest supplier of imported sheep meat to the UK market, a fall in shipments is anticipated, with the potential to enable UK producers to increase their domestic market share, AHDB suggested.