The volume of sheepmeat produced in the UK in 2023 reduced by 5,300t, or 1.8%, to 286,000t.

The reduction in production volumes stemmed from two areas – lower lamb carcase weights and fewer ewes and rams slaughtered.

The average lamb carcase weight was recorded at 19.8kg, some 0.4kg lower than in 2022.

The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) highlighted that lower carcase weights in the final quarter of 2023 were significantly lower than the corresponding period in 2022, citing weather and higher feed costs as the underlying cause.

The lamb kill in 2023 grew slightly by 20,000 head, or 0.2%, on 2022 levels and was recorded at 12.28m head.

The AHDB points out that this was despite December throughput falling to its lowest level since 2019 at 1.14m head. Wet weather and higher feed costs were again a factor, with producers facing significant challenges in finishing lambs in the latter part of 2023.

Higher ewe kill

The adult sheep kill (ewes and rams) fell by 2.5% to 1.65m head, due partly to lower confidence in sheep farming and culling due to higher costs.

In contrast to lambs, adult sheep throughput in December 2023 was steady on November 2023 levels at 129,500 head, with the AHDB highlighting that this marked the first period without growth in the ewe and ram kill at this stage of the year since before 2018.