Last year’s record lamb prices have boosted the national sheep flock by 3%, according to DEFRA’s December survey.
It put the sheep flock at 22m head, with the breeding flock growing by 2.5%, to 14.2m head. “This growth is likely to be as a result of increased retentions of ewe lambs following increased adult sheep slaughter in 2011,” said a report by AHDB Meat Services.
However, the number of beef and dairy cattle fell by 2%, to 9.7m head. Record cull cow prices had resulted in much higher culling rates, causing suckler cow numbers to fall by 1%, to 1.6m head, with dairy cow numbers down by 2.5%, to 1.8m head.
“The short-term outlook remains bleak for any rebuilding of the herds with the number of females between one and two years old down 2% for beef and up only 1% for dairy. This indicates that there are not sufficient heifers in the herd to rebuild breeding numbers.”
The pig herd fell by more than 1%, to 4.3m head, with the breeding herd down by 1.5%, to 499,000. However, the number of gilts retained for first time breeding increased by 9%, it said.