How many sheep were slaughtered in Irish meat processing plants in 2020?

2020 was a good year overall for Irish sheep farmers, with lamb prices both at factory and mart level holding strong throughout the course of the year.

Looking at the throughput of sheep at meat processing plants, 2020 started in much the same fashion as 2019; however, once we headed into spring, the weekly kills started to run well ahead in comparison to the same period in 2019.

This was helped by the strong demand for lamb at Easter and for Ramadan. When it was expected that lamb prices would fall after this, the opposite occurred; however, throughput did take a hit until the beginning of the summer.

It wasn’t until the summer when kills exceeded the 60,000 head mark for a number of weeks that 2020 stood apart from the previous year when throughput remained fairly stagnant for a while and eventually declined – due to the beef protests that took place back towards the end of summer into autumn.

After the summer in 2020, throughput started to decline rapidly for a short period and then improved briefly before tailing off gradually again over the last quarter, although factory appetite for lambs remained strong and so did prices most importantly.

Data source: Department of Agriculture

However, despite the decline in throughput for the latter half of the year, the sheep kill for 2020 exceeded that of 2019.

In total, 2,884,480 sheep were processed in 2020, which is 74,519 head more than the 2019 figure of 2,809,961.

The number of spring lambs slaughtered at Irish meat processing plants in 2020 stood at 1,704,741 which was a substantial increase of 56,940 on 2019.

The number of hoggets processed amounted to 793,066 which again was a good bit ahead of the 2019 figure – of 752,280.

Ewe and ram throughput for 2020 lagged behind 2019 for much of the year and for 2020 the number of rams and ewes slaughtered amounted to 386,605 which is a decline of 21,639 from the previous year.

Total number of sheep slaughtered 2020 versus 2019:

  • Lambs/hoggets: 793,066 (+40,786 head or +5%);
  • Spring lambs: 1,704,741 (+56,940 head or +3%);
  • Ewes and rams: 386,605 (-21,639 head or -5%);
  • Light lambs: 68 (-1,568 head or -96%);
  • Total: 2,884,480 (+74,519 head or +3%).