In June 2013 the sheep population was 6.57 million on around 14,800 farms in Scotland.
Ewes used for breeding in the previous season accounted for 40 per cent of the total, with rams to be used for service just one per cent. Lambs made up the largest proportion with 47 per cent and other sheep over one year old accounted for 12 per cent. Lamb numbers were proportionally low compared to the flock size (generally about 49 per cent), which may have been due to a combination of a poor summer in 2012 leading to poorer conception rates, the harsh winter and bad weather at lambing time.
Chart: Sheep population, June 2013
The latest annual trends between 2012 and 2013 show:
- An decrease in total sheep of 165,000 (2.5 per cent) to 6.57 million.
- A decrease in ewes used for breeding of 7,500 (0.3 per cent) to 2.62 million.
- An decrease in lambs of 167,000 (5.1 per cent) to 3.11 million.
- An increase in other sheep aged one year and over (not for breeding) of 17,000 (19.4 per cent) to 105,000.
In the last 10 years sheep numbers have declined by 1.44 million (17.9 per cent) from 8.01 million in 2003 to 6.57 million in 2013. The chart below shows trends for breeding ewes and lambs, which in June 2013 made up 87.1 per cent of the total sheep population. Over the past ten years there has been a decline of 576,000 ewes for breeding (18.1 per cent) from 3.19 million in 2003 to 2.62 million in 2013. Lambs have declined at a slightly lower rate, from 3.85 to 3.11 million (a drop of 19.3 per cent).
Between 2003 and 2005, the rate of decline in the number of sheep was slow (average decline of less than 0.8 per cent per annum) as the population adjusted to large losses from the foot and mouth outbreak experienced in 2000. After the introduction of Single Farm Payments in 2005, sheep numbers declined more rapidly with a decrease of 1.13 million sheep between 2005 and 2010 (annual average decline of 3.0 per cent).
Following an increase in the number of sheep in 2011, driven by an increase in the number of lambs, the number of sheep fell in 2012 (by 65,200 or one per cent) and in June 2013 (by 165,000 or 2.2 per cent). This was attributable in the main to a fall of 167,000 (5.1 per cent) in the number of lambs offset by rises in the number of rams and (for the second year in succession) other sheep aged one year and over.
Despite the rise in the number of sheep on Scottish farms in 2011, sheep numbers fell by 65,000 (1.0 per cent) to 6.74 million in 2012 continuing the overall trend of declining sheep numbers (down by 16 per cent since 2002). The number of breeding ewes also decreased to 2.62 million.
Chart : Ewes used for breeding and lambs, trends 2003 to 2013
The map below shows the number of sheep per hectare, using the total area in the parish, not just the area of agricultural land. Where there are too few producers in an area the data are deemed disclosive and so not published. The overall pattern is not considered to be too adversely affected by this suppression.
FARM OUTPUT , PRICES AND INCOMES
The value of finished sheep and lambs in 2012 was £202.3 million down £8.5 million on 2011. The value of clipwool was £8.3 million.
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