Sheep meat production still low in October

Thursday, 11 November 2021

UK lamb kill was once again on the low side in October, according to Defra data. This is a trend we had expected to see throughout 2021, based on the idea that lambs were brought forwards for slaughter in H2 2020 rather than Q1 2021. This took account of the size of the 2020 lamb crop, and uncertainty due to the end of Brexit transition period.

Since then, the low kill has been less than expected, and less explicable.

In October lamb kill totalled 1,107,000 head, down 11% on the year and 12% on the 5-year average. October is usually the peak month for lamb kill. We were expecting a low lamb kill to be recorded by Defra, as industry data have recorded a reduction in weekly lamb kill this month. Prices have been relatively high and rising too, in an attempt to tempt supply forwards. However, the decline in kill, especially when taking account of the declines across the year and allowing for a smaller lamb crop, does seem suspiciously large.

UK lamb kill low in 2021

Adult sheep kill has also once again recorded a large year-on-year decrease, to stand at 100,400 head. Recorded ewe slaughter was 29% below the 5-year average for the month. 

UK adult sheep kill low in 2021

Average lamb carcase weights were marginally up, while adult sheep weights fell. Combined with slaughter levels, this brings UK sheep meat production for October to 24,600 tonnes, a 10% year-on-year decrease.

For the year-to October, production totals 214,600 tonnes, 11% below year earlier levels.

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Rebecca Wright

Senior Analyst - Red Meat

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