EU sheepmeat production increased by nearly 3% during the first five months of the year, as farmers culled heavier ewes to benefit from higher prices.
Although meat production rose to 288,000t, overall slaughter numbers remained relatively static compared with the previous year, at 19.4m head, said a report by AHDB Meat Services. “Lamb slaughterings fell slightly to just below 17.2m head, while the number of adult sheep culled increased 7% to 2.2m head.”
The recovery followed sharp falls in 2009 and 2010, and was being led by a 13% increase in adult sheep slaughterings in the UK, said the report. Overall, EU lamb production remained static at 238,000t, while mutton production increased by 17%, to 50,000t. “These higher weights indicate that producers are culling their flocks harder as they seek to take advantage of significantly higher ewe prices.”
In New Zealand, sheep numbers had fallen by 2% in the year to 30 June, but better lambing percentages should boost the lamb crop by 6%. Although this would increase export availability, shipments to the UK in 2012 would not reach 2010 levels due to newly emerged markets and constrained supplies.