Although meat production rose to 288,000t, overall slaughter numbers remained relatively static compared with the previous year, at 19.4m head, said a report by AHDB Meat Services. "Lamb slaughterings fell slightly to just below 17.2m head, while the number of adult sheep culled increased 7% to 2.2m head."
The recovery followed sharp falls in 2009 and 2010, and was being led by a 13% increase in adult sheep slaughterings in the UK, said the report. Overall, EU lamb production remained static at 238,000t, while mutton production increased by 17%, to 50,000t. "These higher weights indicate that producers are culling their flocks harder as they seek to take advantage of significantly higher ewe prices."
In New Zealand, sheep numbers had fallen by 2% in the year to 30 June, but better lambing percentages should boost the lamb crop by 6%. Although this would increase export availability, shipments to the UK in 2012 would not reach 2010 levels due to newly emerged markets and constrained supplies.