Meat & Livestock News

2024 Lamb Outlook: Production Update

TL;DR: The 2024 lamb market faces low breeding numbers and high demand, leading to a slight decrease in production despite increased slaughters, amidst challenging weather conditions.

Market Situation

The domestic sheep market faces a perfect storm: low supplies and high consumer demand. These factors drive robust prices. Recently updated data has led to new predictions for 2024.

Changes in Predictions

Recent data from Defra shows a decrease in the female breeding flock, leading to fewer ewe replacements. Consequently, more ewe lambs are slated for slaughter instead of breeding, which slightly mitigates the expected decline in lamb numbers for 2024.

Breeding Flock Analysis

As of December 2023, the female breeding flock was at its lowest since 1996, with only 13.8 million head, a 4.3% decrease. This decline influences the future availability of lambs, as fewer ewe lambs are retained for breeding due to high market prices.

Lamb Crop Forecast

The lamb crop for the 2024-25 season is projected to be 15.9 million head, down 1.2%. This reduction is attributed to fewer breeding ewes and poor scanning rates, although disease risks like Schmallenberg and Bluetongue Virus are not currently factored into these predictions due to uncertainty.

Slaughter Estimates

Carry Over and H1 Slaughter

The estimated carryover of old season lambs into 2024 is 4.1 million head, down 4.3%. This follows a trend where more ewe lambs are used for initial breeding.

H2 Slaughter

The slaughter in the second half of 2024 is expected to slightly increase, totalling 6.4 million head, up by about 1%.

Adult Sheep Slaughter

Overall, adult sheep slaughter is anticipated to drop by 3% across 2024, following a significant decrease in the first quarter.

Production Totals

Sheep meat production is predicted to fall by 1.4%, totalling 282,000 tonnes for 2024. Persistent wet weather conditions have impacted lamb carcass weights.

This overview provides a glimpse into the challenges and shifts expected in the 2024 lamb market, reflecting the dynamic nature of agricultural economics.