UK sheep production saw a decline of 7% on the year, to 19,100t for the month of May, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) reported.

The data, collected by Defra, shows that there was a decline in both lamb and adult sheep slaughtered.

For the month of May, 833,000 lambs were processed, which was back 6%. The adult sheep kill totaled 79,000 – down 17%.

The data shows that old season lamb (OSL) is the main culprit behind the drop in production, as in actual fact, new season lamb (NSL) throughput is up on this time last year – albeit marginally.

OSL supply is now coming to an end, as it is here at home, with numbers processed in meat processing plants in the Republic of Ireland falling back significantly over the last number of weeks.

Looking at the UK, over the past five months, around 3.4 million OSL were slaughtered.

The AHDB said that this is around half a million fewer than on average in recent years.

With this partly down to more lambs being slaughtered ahead of the UK’s exit from the EU, and possibly due to higher numbers of retained ewe lambs, the AHDB added.

During the same five-month period, the number of NSL coming forward for slaughter has tallied similar to other years (825,000 head), as mentioned already, except for 2018, when a huge dip was seen.

Total combined year-to-date lamb kill tallied 4.23 million head, back 0.37 million head from the same period in 2019.

The adult sheep kill so far this year in the UK is back almost a quarter at 440,800 head. This decline was mainly seen in the early part of the year, the AHDB noted.

In total, UK sheep production so far this year stands at 98,700t – back 9% or -9,700t on the year.

However, over half of this decline was mainly seen in January of this year when exports to the EU were at their lowest. Even still, production in the months that followed has also been lower.