The UK sheep kill continues to lag behind normal levels, with throughput in September following on from the trend during August, falling by 16% to just over 1m head.

The throughput of ewes also dropped significantly in September, with the figure of 108,000 head falling 15% year on year.

According to the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) market update in which the figures were contained, the DEFRA England June survey suggested that the lamb crop in 2021 reduced by 3% to 4% taking into account lambs slaughtered before 1 June 2021.

UK sheep throughput in August and September has been at a much lower level than expected.

Figure 1 details the expected throughput level along with the actual sheep kill.

As mentioned already, the lamb kill for August and September was below normal levels of throughput and this is contributing to throughput for the year to date falling by a substantial figure of 1.07m head or by 11% to 8.3m lambs.

AHDB red meat analyst Rebecca Wright says it is hard to predict if there is a higher level of lambs on farms.

“Looking at the June survey data for England and Scotland, combined with Defra slaughter data, [it] would suggest there are a significant number of lambs still available for production.

"However, the buoyant store lamb prices, and strong finished prices, suggest that supply is not quite so plentiful,” she said.

Reduced ewe kill

The ewe kill is also running well behind 2020 levels, with the significant decline in September increasing the previous shortfall, with total throughput for the year to date of 854,000 head running 237,000 head, or 22%, lower.

Wright says the decline recorded in Defra slaughter data does not reflect the numbers of sheep traded through auction sales yards.

Total sheepmeat production during September was recorded at 23,000t and 190,000t for the year to the end of September. This is 25,000t or 11% lower than the corresponding period in 2020.