Lamb and mutton production ‘up 7%’

Lamb and mutton production is up, figures show.

Lamb and mutton production is up, figures show. - Credit: Su Anderson

UK lamb and mutton production in 2015 is expected to be up 7% on the previous year, AHDB Beef & Lamb figures show.

A large carryover from the 2014 crop led to increased slaughterings in the first half of this year and, with another strong lamb crop, production is expected to be at its highest level for seven years, the beef and lamb levy-payers organisation says.

The industry is hoping for favourable changes in retail sourcing and pricing, along with promotional campaigns to draw consumers to lamb over the coming months, but it warned if demand isn’t forthcoming, prices may continue to be under pressure.

The UK breeding flock is now at 14.8 million head, with year-on-year increases in all regions, according to December 2014 data.

Near-perfect seasonal conditions for the lambing season should mean that the 2015 lamb crop will be around 18.1 million head, over 500,000 (3%) more than in 2014.

In the first quarter of 2015, lamb marketings were high, driven by the earlier Easter and the numbers carried over from 2014. Growth in the second quarter was slower than expected, with bigger increases forecast from the third quarter onwards.

Low lamb prices and a relatively strong store lamb trade may mean some producers delay marketing lambs, so the biggest increase in year-on-year growth may take place in the final quarter of the year. The carryover of lambs into 2016 is forecast to increase again, meaning further growth early next year.

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Carcase weights were well above seasonal norms throughout the 2014-15 season and remain high as low prices encourage producers to add extra weight to their lambs, a pattern that’s expected to continue in the short term.