Lamb kill closes 2021 at a low level

Thursday, 13 January 2022

Since the start of the season recorded lamb kill has been low, with year-on-year declines in excess of 10%. During December UK lamb kill totalled 1.1 million head, according to the latest Defra data. Compared to a year earlier this was a decline of 6%.

Chart showing the decline in monthly UK lamb kill compared to last year.

Meanwhile, ewe kill was steady on the year at 113,500 head. While this was similar to last year, typical ewe kill during December would be around 133,300 so the number was low in historic terms.

Combined, this meant production for the month stood at 25,700 tonnes, down 4% on the year.

For the whole of 2021 recorded UK lamb kill totalled 11.7 million head, according to Defra data. This is the second lowest level since 1979 with only 2001 clocking a lower number. It was expected that kill would be on the lower side this year, in part due to the large numbers which came forwards early during 2020, from the 2020/21 crop due to Brexit uncertainty as well as the national breeding flock being the smallest size on record. What we were not expecting was just how low kill was during the second half of 2021. Based upon industry commentary, historic trends and other data, we suspect that actual kill was higher than official records show.

Chart showing the percentage drop in UK lamb and ewe kill on a monthly basis

Recorded ewe kill figures have been low throughout the past 18 months. Recorded kill for 2021 topped 1.6 million head making it the lowest year since 1977. Similar to the situation with lambs, there are reasons to suggest that actual kill may have been higher, although by no means large.

Unsurprisingly, this means that 2021 recorded the second lowest production level on records dating back to 1985, at 265,100 tonnes. The only year which has been lower was 2001.

Looking into the new year and what is ahead for us in the 2022/23 lamb crop will be the next AHDB Agri-Market Outlook, published at the end of January.

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