Livestock numbers culled in the campaign against FMD are only tiny proportions of the national herds and flocks, contrary to the impression given by some media reports. But the supply disruption due to movement restrictions limiting abattoir throughput is not so easy to dismiss as minimal. Traders know slaughterhouse operators are still denied access to many animals farmers want to sell, especially sheep, despite recent relaxation of controls. However, these logjams are not the only reason for shortages in some corners of the home-produced meat market. Slaughterings of all three species had been trending lower before FMD. A dramatic drop in the pig kill following the 1998 market collapse was the main reason for total UK meat production being lower in January than a year earlier, but an unexpected tightness of sheep supply exacerbated by difficult finishing conditions last autumn was a contributing factor. Even in the beef sector, trouble was brewing. January production was greater than 12 months previously, by about 4%, but MLC analyst Duncan Sinclair pointed out this was due to increased slaughterings of young bulls (a consequence of the abolition of the calf processing subsidy in 1999) and heavier steer and heifer carcases. The numbers of steers and heifers killed were down year-on-year, with a particularly heavy fall in the Scottish abattoirs' steer tally. Nearly all the available evidence, from MAFF farm census results to financial strain in the dairy sector, suggested the processors would have struggled to maintain numbers of cattle, sheep and pigs on their hooks this year even without the FMD catastrophe. {{M/E MEAT }}