Recent data shows that the English sheep flock has increased for the first time in five years.

According to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in its latest June livestock survey, the English sheep flock has grown to 14.9 million head, which is an increase of 2% on last year and the first increase in five years.

The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) has said that there was a 2.9% increase in the female breeding flock in England, in line with the increase seen in the UK flock from December, as reported in the AHDB’s July outlook.

This is the first increase in the female flock since 2017, although it remains smaller than the 2020 flock, the AHDB said.

There was growth seen in ewes intended for first-time breeding, with numbers up by 10.3% on 2021 to 1.2 million head.

The AHDB said that lambs under one-year-old also saw an increase, up 1.5% to 7.5 million head. Furthermore, breeding ewes intended for slaughter were recorded at 583,000 head, which was up 3.5% on 2021 levels.

However, both rams and other sheep numbers have declined: With 171,00 rams recorded, a decrease of 6.6% or 12,000 head and 0.3% or 600 head on 2021, respectively, can be noted.