CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Country Smallholding today CLICK HERE

Sheep numbers still falling

PUBLISHED: 16:53 23 April 2010 | UPDATED: 08:35 28 March 2014

APRIL 23, 2010: Although British sheep numbers are still falling, the rate of decline slowed down in 2009.

Confidence is returning to the industry, with an increase in productivity and positive wafer thin margins.

Painting a cautiously optimistic picture at the AHDB Outlook 2010 conference, head of economics at Quality Meat Scotland, Stuart Ashworth, said producer prices were unlikely to fall in the shorter term.

“A lot of money was spent by many producers looking after their sheep this winter, but I have seen early signs of confidence returning to the industry, with an increasing number of lambs being held back for the breeding flock,” he said.

Improved farm gate prices meant producers’ margins should continue to improve as long as current monetary exchange rates between sterling and the euro continued to favour UK producers.
Sector pressure

But, Mr Ashworth warned the processing sector was still under pressure.

He pointed out sheep numbers across the European Union – as well as in the other major sheep producing countries (such as Australia and New Zealand), were also falling, which had opened up new opportunities for the UK to build up its lamb export market to countries like Belgium, Italy and Germany, thus reducing the UK’s dependence on the country’s traditional sales to France.

The UK was now exporting up to 38 per cent of its lamb crop, compared with just 31 per cent in 2004 and he had found checking exchange rates every day was now currently even more important than the lamb price.

While the proportion of imported fresh chilled products (which competed directly against home-grown lamb) increased, imports generally had remained stable, so the actual amount of sheep meat available in the home market had fallen. The prices, however, had remained firm.
Margins warning

But, he warned that margins were likely to remain slim for producers for some time and would continue to be squeezed for the processors.

In addition, any detrimental changes in future CAP policies, or new moves to tackle climate change and global warming, could knock confidence.

He was also concerned about rising competition between pork, beef and lamb.

0 comments

Interact with other smallholders and post your questions

Visit our forums


More from Land

Friday, September 7, 2018

Although Britain’s record-breaking heatwave has now been broken by rain storms, the impact of the prolonged tinderbox dry summer following a longer than usual winter is likely to continue throughout this year and into next, writes Kim Stoddart

Read more
September 2018
Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Ask the experts: during the hot weather, here’s how to preserve dwindling water supplies

Read more
August 2018
Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Debbie Kingsley outlines what smallholders-in-waiting need to consider when buying their first property

Read more
August 2018
Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Liz Shankland continues her guide to improving herd productivity, this time investigating the importance

Read more
August 2018
Tuesday, August 7, 2018

The long run of sunshine and dry days of summer 2018 is impacting smallholders and their livestock and crops

Read more
August 2018
Monday, July 9, 2018

Our guide to getting your lice and mite treatment up to scratch

Read more
July 2018
Monday, July 9, 2018

Debbie Kingsley outlines the rules and regulations for smallholdings. This month: medicine records and fallen stock

Read more
July 2018
Monday, July 9, 2018

The countryside is not immune to crime - in fact, it’s increasing

Read more
July 2018
Monday, April 9, 2018

Jack Smellie looks at what to do when lambing and kidding doesn’t go to plan

Read more
April 2018
Monday, April 9, 2018

Smallholder Tim Tyne advises on the treatment of lambs which are hypothermic

Read more
April 2018

Most Read

Newsletter Sign Up

Country Smallholding monthly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

This Year’s Shows

Country Smallholding cover image

Don’t miss our comprehensive guide to rural events

Find out more

Like us on Facebook


Follow us on Twitter