Latest figures show growing sheep flock

Industry figures have shown that the UK breeding flock has expanded in the last year.

The latest December survey results released by Defra show that the total number of sheep and lambs in the UK on 1 December 2016 stood at 23.8 million, an increase of 3.1% on the 2015 figure. This is the biggest national flock at this time of year for over a decade.

Within this figure, the breeding flock increased by less than one per cent to 14.8 million while other sheep and lambs increased by 6.7% (or 570,000 head) to 9.05 million. This highlights the higher carryover of lambs this year when compared to last.

HCC’s Industry Information Executive, John Richards said: “Reasonable lambing conditions contributed to an increase in lambs in 2016 within Wales and the UK as a whole. However, the sheep sector was also faced with unfavourable weather at certain stages during the year. As a result, some producers reported difficulties in finishing their lambs.”

Defra slaughter figures for the first quarter of 2017 show that a similar number of lambs, around 2.9 million, have been brought forward this year compared to 2016.

John Richards added: “The figures suggest a possibility of a high number of old season lambs on UK farms, although it is unclear how many of these will be kept for further breeding. It is also expected that, given the later Easter this year, we will see higher throughput numbers by the end of this month.

“Looking at the breeding ewe numbers, it is encouraging that the national flock seems to be in gradual growth. This hopefully suggests a greater sense of confidence and optimism within the sector, despite the political uncertainty that currently exists.”