Promising outlook for sheep sector, despite decline in flock

While overall sheep numbers are back marginally in 2013 on 2012 according to National Sheep Census published earlier this week, it does not suggest that the recovery in the national flock has stalled after three consecutive years of growth.

This is according to Declan Fennell of Bord Bia who noted in a recent update that : “The 0.6% decline in the number of breeding ewes could be considered as negligible. Taking into consideration the ideal lambing conditions of Spring 2014, the absence of Schmallenberg and excellent grass growth of recent weeks, all the indicators would suggest a promising season ahead by way of sheep numbers and increased carcass weights.”

According to the 2013 National Sheep Census published earlier this week by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, the national flock declined by just under 50,000 sheep, equivalent to a 1% drop on 2012.

Fennell said: “Given the difficult circumstances of Winter/Spring 2012-13 and the added complications of Schmallenberg virus, it had been anticipated that national flock would have be back by an order of 2-3%. Thankfully, this did not materialise.”

Key Take Outs

  • Total Sheep Numbers stood at 3,535,802 – back 48,417 head, equivalent to a 1% decline on 2012
  • Breeding Ewe Numbers stood at 2,458,600 – back 15,271 head, a 0.6% fall on the previous year
  • The category of ‘Other sheep’ accounted for the biggest share of the decline in the 2013 Census. Total ‘Other Sheep’ fell by 3% (29,608 head) to stand at 995,633
  • The overall number of flock owners increased by 256 to 34,304
  • The average number of sheep per flock fell by from 105 to 103
  • Together the top five counties of Donegal (13%), Galway (11%), Mayo (10%), Kerry (9%) and Wicklow (7%) accounted for almost 50% of the national sheep flock in 2013
  • With regards to the 3% decline in the category of ‘Other Sheep’ which included 2013 new season lambs, this was more of a reflection of the strong throughput levels in sheep disposals throughout the June to December period and explains further the reduced carryover of hoggets into 2014.

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