Lamb prospects for 2012 good, says Eblex

The lamb market is set to stay strong, according to Eblex’s latest annual outlook, despite the growth of the national flock and increasing availability of supplies from New Zealand.

The June survey showed breeding ewe numbers had risen to just over 14.9m, a 1% increase year-on-year. Further expansion was expected during the second half of 2011 and through 2012, as optimism returned to the sector. However, culling rates were also high, as producers took advantage of the firm prices, and this is likely to restrict flock growth going forward.

The mild winter and good feed availability is expected to result in a higher lambing percentage which, combined with the increase in flock size, should result in the largest lamb crop since 2008. However, Eblex said it was too early to tell what the effect of the Schmallenberg virus would be.

Eblex’s senior market analyst Debbie Butcher said: “Overall, domestic sheepmeat production in 2012 is forecast to be slightly higher than in 2011. A considerable recovery in New Zealand lamb exports is also likely to impact the 2012 market. After a 10% drop in the lamb crop in 2010/11, the latest figures show a 7% increase over the past season. This, and better forward planning by processors, is set to lead to an increase in volumes, particularly in the build-up to Easter.”

“At the same time, European sheepmeat production is expected to decline. With further growth in exports to non-EU markets as well as the near-Continent, the stage is set for a robust UK export trade to underpin domestic markets.”

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