2015 lambing season fallen stock numbers normal, but costs increase
Despite the colder than average spring sheep farmers had a “near normal” lambing period as measured by fallen stock trends through the spring. That’s according to an analysis of data collected by NFSCo (the National Fallen Stock Company), the not for profit Community Interest Company whose remit is to organise the efficient and competitive collection and disposal of fallen stock across the UK.
NFSCo works with 100 or so collectors across the UK, but not all of them put all of their collections through the scheme. In addition there is a further complication to assessing accurate numbers because some of the classifications used for payment by NFSCo to collectors are on a weight basis (“unassigned”) and NFSCo does not know how many lambs or ewes are in each bag or container. In a particularly bad year the amount of unassigned collections generally increases.
Thus the data must not be interpreted as being a country’s total number of fallen stock, but rather an indication of the trend across years. Nevertheless, despite the limitations of the data, NFSCo believes that this is the only data on which to track trends in the sector. The analysis was triggered by the events of 2013, when heavy snow falls during lambing and a generally extended cold weather patch in the spring resulted in disastrous losses across the UK, and when there was a political will from some devolved Governments to help the sector.
“We are going to get another 2013 at some stage in the future, and farming leaders may want to approach Governments for help again,” says Michael Seals, chairman of NFSCo. “I believe the industry needs to put a strategy in place to help us have those conversations, and this data monitoring is part of that.”
On the basis of the 2015 spring lambing season figures (February to May) NFSCo has drawn the following conclusions:
• Compared to 2014 the number of specifically cited lamb losses in England fell 11.4%, and there was a 5.7% reduction in adult losses. In contrast, though, there was a 10.1% increase in the “unassigned” weight category;
• Compared to 2013 there was a reduction of 29% in specified lamb losses; a 25.4% reduction in adult losses and a 32.5% reduction in the unassigned category.
• The number of specified lamb losses increased 44% on 2014, with adult losses up 8%. However this was offset by a 43% reduction in the “unassigned” total, indicating that more fallen stock was submitted on a headage basis rather than on a weight basis;
• Compared to 2013, when the Scottish Government paid out £750,000 in compensation for bad weather losses, specific lamb losses were up 15% but adult losses were down 44.85% and the “unassigned” weight was down 56%;
• Welsh sheep farmers saw an across the board decline compared to last year. Specified lamb losses were down 1.4%; adult losses were down 5.3% and the amount of “unassigned” consignments fell by 30.4%;
• Compared to 2013 lamb losses are down 31.5%, adults are down 28.8% and the “unassigned” volumes were down 50.5%.
• Compared to 2014 Northern Irish farmers had a poor year. Specified lamb losses were up 14%; and the “unassigned” total increased by 40.6%. However adult losses were down 9.2%;
• Compared to 2013 lamb losses were down 60.7%, adult losses fell 18.75% but unassigned losses increased by 63.3%.
Although the fallen stock trends look like being on a par with a normal year the cost of disposing of the animals has increased this year because of the fall in the value of tallow, says Michael Seals.
“Prices are and will remain volatile for farmers, collectors and renderers, so in order to increase the flexibility of the fallen stock scheme NFSCO operates an optional quarterly re-pricing for GB collectors. The next price review is 1st July and I recommend farmers keep an eye on the NFSCo website’s news pages for a list of collectors who will be updating their charges,” he adds.
“NFSCo remains committed to facilitating healthy competition in the sector to ensure an efficient and cost effective service for farmers and a profitable one to enable collectors to continually invest in improving their businesses.”
Joining NFSCo is free, and interested farmers can sign up by ringing 01335 320014.
(Click on download tag below to see graphs):
For more information contact Joanne Sowter, NFSCo, on (01335) 320014