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Markets continue to be buoyant for beef and lamb

Beef and sheep farmers are continuing to enjoy above-average market prices due to the reduced numbers of livestock on the ground.

There was a 5.7 per cent reduction in cattle sent to the abattoir in 2021 compared to the previous year. Lamb throughout was down 10.6 per cent and sheep numbers were down by 10.5 per cent over the same time scale.

Defra data on the throughput of cattle and prime lambs during 2021 suggests that the reduced numbers seen will have a knock-on effect on trading patterns during the coming months.

Glesni Phillips, data analyst at Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) said the decrease in cattle throughput was not unexpected.
‘Increased numbers were processed during 2020 and this led to fewer cattle on the ground,’ she explained. ‘This was especially true for adult cattle which saw throughput fall by almost 6% on the year.

‘It was also anticipated that fewer lambs would be sent for slaughter in 2021 due to the increased number of lambs processed earlier than usual ahead of the Brexit deadline in 2020.’

Numbers of animals processed was also affected by Brexit-related staff shortages at processing sites that may have limited the processing capacity of some UK abattoirs.

Ms Phillips added that it was not known whether the strong market prices would continue further into 2022, although she said a significant number of old season lambs are likely to reach the market between now and Easter which will undoubtedly impact trading patterns.

‘When considering cattle, figures from the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS) suggest that the supply will remain tight for at least six months.

‘During the subsequent 6-12 months, it seems that there will be an increase in the number of cattle available on the ground which will likely increase the competition on the market.’