Welsh sheep numbers on the rise

The Welsh beef herd has continued to contract, but sheep numbers have risen for the first time in a decade, according to new figures from Hybu Cig Cymru - Meat Promotion Wales (HCC).

The 2011 December survey revealed that the number of beef cattle over two years of age fell from 232,500 to 220,000 last year. John Richards, industry information officer for HCC, said while this is a cause for concern, it reflected a global trend, which could offer opportunities for Welsh Beef.

“Global beef production is predicted to fall over the next 12 months, with only Australia and Brazil expected to buck the trend,” he said.

“At the same time there is growing demand for red meat in China, while Russia is struggling to increase its domestic beef production and therefore continues to import large volumes. HCC hopes that Welsh Beef will soon be given access to the Russian market.

“HCC hopes that farmers in Wales will look positively at the worldwide demand for beef and recognise that there are opportunities opening up in markets across the globe. This, together with improved market returns, will hopefully stimulate them to increase production in Wales and reverse the downward trend in production,” he added.

Sheep numbers, which have been in decline since 1999, saw some revival last year, with total breeding flock numbers at 3,988,000 an increase of 217,000 over the 2010 figure.

“The increase in the sheep breeding flock is to be welcomed and is a sign of growing confidence in this sector of the industry, This is highlighted by the fact that there were over 100,000 more ewe lambs kept on Welsh farms in December 2011 than in 2010,” said Richards. “Encouraging market returns for lambs have led farmers to invest in the future, although growing costs are a worry and need to be kept under control.”

Pig numbers remain low at 25,600, which is less than half than in 2000, when there were 65,200 pigs in Wales.