So, just how many sheep are there in Wales?

Latest figures which show an increase in Welsh sheep numbers are an indication of confidence in the future of the industry, say Hybu Cig Cymru - Meat Promotion Wales (HCC).

Annual census figures, based on the June 2016 Survey of Agriculture and Horticulture have recently been published. They show that total sheep numbers, which were in decline from the late-1990s to 2009, have continued their recent upward trend.

In 2016, the total numbers of sheep and lambs in Wales was 9.81 million, an increase of 3.2% on the 2015 figures. The numbers of beef breeding cattle was unchanged in 2016 compared to last year.

HCC Industry Information Executive John Richards said the sheep figures represented positive news overall for the red meat sector in Wales. “From a peak of nearly 12 million sheep in the late 1990s, the numbers fell for a number of years, mainly due to the end of payments from the Common Agricultural Policy which were based on the numbers of animals kept.

“After the shift to payments which were based on area and environmental maintenance, sheep numbers fell to around 8 million,” he added. “But in the last 6 years there’s been an increase, and this year’s census shows the total almost at the 10 million milestone once more.”

“There are still challenges for the lamb industry in Wales,” explained Mr. Richards. “Ensuring that everyone, including farmers and processors, get a good price for their product is vital, and means continuing to respond to changing customer demands. Political uncertainties around Brexit also mean that it’s difficult to predict accurately how the structure of future support payments and trade arrangements will affect livestock numbers.”