December lamb kill increases on 2019 levels

Thursday, 14 January 2021

By Charlie Reeve

UK lamb kill during December was 1.25 million head, up 5% on year earlier levels, according to Defra. Total lamb kill for the whole of 2020 was estimated at 13.1 million head, which still puts total lamb kill during 2020 down by 50,000 head on the previous year.

It’s worth pointing out however, that from June to December, the kill was 315,000 head, or 4% higher than year earlier levels for the same period. This from a crop in 2020 that was likely to have been a similar size to the crop in 2019. We’ll be giving more information on the implications of this in the outlook at the end of the month.

One factor that may have helped to drive the increase in total throughput during December was vendors aiming to finish more lambs earlier in order to beat the EU-Exit deadline. This would have allowed them to avoid the impact of tariffs that would have been imposed in the event that a trade deal was not reached.

Carcase weights have remained fairly stable for several months now, but they are now marginally up on last year to average 19.5kg/head.

Total sheep meat production totalled 27,700 tonnes during December, up 1,000 tonnes on December 2019. Annual production was 297,200 tonnes, 10,300 tonnes lower than in 2019, predominantly due to 247,000 fewer adult sheep slaughtered.

There was some disruption to the number of killings days by abattoirs during December, due to how the bank holidays fell over the Christmas period, which will have had some impact on total kill numbers. Around mid-December, there was also briefly some disruption to throughput, when temporary restrictions were put in place to limit exports to France due to Covid-19. There were reports of some markets and abattoirs having to briefly turn some stock away during the week commencing 23 December due to loss of their export markets.

Charlie Reeve

Analyst - Livestock

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