Falling livestock numbers are an industry warning

The red meat industry must halt the falling livestock numbers if it is to avoid demand outstripping supply, according to Meat Promotion Wales chairman, Rees Roberts.

He told the organisation’s annual conference that 2009 had generally been a good year for beef and sheep, with exports up around 20% on last year due to the weakness of sterling.

“But we cannot be complacent. The number of livestock kept on our farms continues to shrink, reducing the amount of meat produced in Wales. If this trend continues unchecked, we could find that we are a victim of our own success, with demand outstripping supply.”

Welsh Assembly June census figures just published show that total sheep numbers in Wales fell 3% in 2009 to 8.2m; well below the 11.8m peak 10 years ago. The breeding flock recorded a 5% fall, which will have implications for the 2010 lamb crop.

Total cattle numbers were also down on 2008, by 1% to 1.1m. Dairy female numbers have fallen every year since 2004, while the number of beef females has fallen each year since 2005.

“As the recession continues to bite, trading conditions are likely to be difficult during 2010,” Mr Rees added. “But I am confident that with the support of everyone in the red meat chain we will continue to be successful and ensure that the provenance of Welsh lamb and Welsh beef keep them at the top of the nation’s shopping lists.”