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Welsh Sheep and Dairy on Rise as Beef Contracts

01 December 2014

WALES – Welsh dairy cow and sheep numbers have grown again as beef herd woes continue, says the Welsh Government.

Dairy cow numbers have followed suit, six per cent higher at almost 290,000 head.

Currently, the Welsh flock – at 9.74 million - and dairy herd are at ten and eight year highs respectively.

This is in stark contrast to the beef industry, slumping three per cent to 214,000 head with a big hit felt in heifers aged one to two years.

National flock numbers lifted two per cent to 9.74 million head, largely thanks to strong lambing performance, a trait of recent years.

Improved lambing and rearing rates are to thank, according to Charlotte Morris, information officer at Hybu Cig Cymru (Meat Promotion Wales).

She said breeding numbers had swelled ten per cent to 4.4 million, the largest for a decade.

“If we compare the last five years we can see that we now have 14 per cent more ewes and 20 per cent more lambs,” said Mrs Morris.

“Taking the figures at face value it is expected that the increase in ewes should result in a bigger lamb crop for the 2015/2016 season.

“This, however, will depend on the conditions experienced over the coming months.”

As for beef’s decline, she said the figures highlight profit and productivity issues seen in the sector in recent years.

“The increase in dairy and sheep figures suggests that some beef producers may have increased or even changed enterprises on their farms.”

A "significant uplift" in female sheep numbers was noted by EBLEX analysts. 

"The key figure in the June results is the number of lambs under the age of one year on farms as of June 1.

"This should give a good indication of the 2014 lamb crop size, as only a relatively small proportion of lambs will have been slaughtered by this point."

They were surprised at projection for fewer lambs this year given better weather in 2014 and a breeding flock.

However, unexpected results have been seen elsewhere. 

EBLEX added: "The uplift in the breeding flock in December also came as a surprise to the industry on the back of the very difficult seasonal and market conditions of 2012 and early 2013."

"With a change in methodology for the Welsh results, there was some concern that the breeding ewe numbers did not represent the true position."

Michael Priestley

Michael Priestley
News Team - Editor

Mainly production and market stories on ruminants sector. Works closely with sustainability consultants at FAI Farms


Top image via Shutterstock

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