27 July 2001

Lamb surplus not so big

FEWER surplus Welsh light lambs will be looking for a market than some pundits predicted, according to the latest Meat and Livestock Commission forecasts.

Culling linked to the foot-and-mouth epidemic, a lower lambing rate and some increase in ewe lamb retentions would reduce lamb numbers, the MLCs Jane Connor told an outlook meeting at Aberystwyth this week.

She estimated ewe losses at about 458,000 head, or 9% of the Welsh breeding flock, but other factors would cut slaughter lamb production by around 17%. The best information available suggested outlets would have to be found for 700,000 to 800,000 Welsh light lambs, or about half the predicted number of surplus lambs of all types for the UK as a whole.

Mrs Connor said all MLC market predictions now assumed that exports would not restart until at least the spring of 2002.

David Croston, MLCs head of sheep strategy, warned producers that it would be very difficult to sell their cull ewes. The UKs 2.7m Muslims were the biggest customers but could not eat the meat of sick sheep.

The commission had set up a team to get old ewes to halal abattoirs and to dispel the perception that the whole sheep flock had F&M. &#42