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Welsh sheep figures rise as number of beef cattle falls

Nov 24 2014

The number of sheep and dairy cattle in Wales continues to rise while the beef herd has declined, according to new figures that have just been released.

The 2014 June Survey for Wales shows that the total number of sheep and lambs stood at 9.74 million, a three per cent rise on 2013 levels.

This represents the fifth consecutive annual rise in the number of sheep and lambs in Wales, and is the highest recorded number since 2003.

The main contributing factor to this increase was a 10 per cent rise in the number of breeding ewes to 4.4 million, the largest breeding flock recorded in Wales for a decade. The number of lambs under one year of age stood at 4.8 million in June 2014.

“Over the last 10 years we have seen an increase in lambing percentages and rearing rates, and the figures highlight this,” said Charlotte Morris, Industry Information Officer with Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales.

“If we compare the last five years we can see that we now have 14 per cent more ewes and 20 per cent more lambs.

“Taking the figures at face value it is expected that the increase in ewes should result in a bigger lamb crop for the 2015/2016 season.

“This, however, will depend on the conditions experienced over the coming months,” said Miss Morris.

The survey, conducted by the Welsh Government, also showed that the total number of cattle and calves in Wales was 1.1 million representing an increase of one per cent on the survey conducted in 2013.

This increase was largely attributed to the number of dairy cattle rising by six per cent to nearly 290,000 head, representing the largest dairy herd Wales has witnessed since 2006.

But the increase in the dairy herd was offset by a decline in the beef herd, with the number of beef cattle over two years of age falling by three pre cent to 214,000 head and the number of female beef cattle between the age of one and two years also falling by 6.4% to 83,000 head.

“The figures highlight the issues we have seen within the beef sector over the last few years, with profitability and productivity concerns leading to many producers deciding to exit the sector,” said Miss Morris. “The increase in dairy and sheep figures suggests that some beef producers may have increased or even changed enterprises on their farms.”

In comparison the number of male cattle aged over two years increased on the previous year by eight per cent to nearly 46,000 head.

There has been a 14 per cent increase in the number of pigs in Wales compared to last year to 28,000 head, largely predisposed by a 17 per cent rise in the number of fattening pigs in Wales to 24,000. This represents the highest number of fattening pigs in Wales since 2004. 

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