LMC: Sharp Reduction In Local Beef Production

NORTHERN IRELAND, UK - The latest slaughter figures leave readers in no doubt as to the sharp reduction in livestock slaughter numbers in 2011.
calendar icon 8 December 2011
clock icon 3 minute read

The strong prices paid for cattle in NI this year have been associated with the very tight supply of cattle and and while the sheep kill has been higher over the course of the last couple of months, numbers are down sharply relative to the same 11 month period last year.

So far this year, the total cattle kill is running at five per cent less than during the same period last year. NI beef processing plants have slaughtered just under 410,000 head. In the same period last year, 430,000 head were slaughtered. Were it not for a sharp increase in the cow kill, these throughput figures would have been even lower.

So far this year the cow kill is 10,000 greater (+13 per cent) compared to last year. This is despite a decline in the dairy cow kill which has been subdued probably due to strong milk prices. Suckler cow slaughterings are up sharply in 2011 and this may have consequences in 2012, with the possibility of reduced suckler cow numbers on the ground and/or more heifers being retained as replacements.

The clear reason for tighter supplies in 2011 has been reduced prime cattle slaughterings, which has been for the most part due to a sharp reduction in local availability. The number of beef cattle on the ground was significantly lower than previous year levels for most of this year.

This was a consequence of an ongoing decline in the suckler herd and calf-birth registrations in recent years. It may also have been driven by reduced young bull production (beef-sired) over the course of 2011. Throughout 2010, young bull production was a prominent feature of the trade and with these animals generally slaughtered at younger ages, there was a temporary increase in the kill.

With feed costs rising, bull production has been more constrained and producers may have been more inclined to finish cattle as steers. One consequence of this shift has been reduced throughput since the progression of steers to slaughter is generally slower.

The steer kill is down by three per cent in 2011 (-5,000 head). The young bull kill is down by 18 per cent (13,000 head). The reduction in the mature bull kill is a reflection of the general reduction in the bull kill generally. While some of these bulls may have been for breeding, many will have been young bulls, retained beyond 24 months (the threshold at which European legislation says that a young bull becomes a mature bull).

As a result of all these developments, total NI beef production is down by four per cent in 2011, compared to the same period last year.

The reasons for the reduced sheep kill in 2011 are well documented at this stage, with increased exports to ROI being a key factor for the lower kill. However, from the perspective of the NI lamb industry generally, a 26 per cent increase in the kill this November and over the autumn generally is positive.

There are anecdotal reports of producers choosing to finish lambs earlier off grass this autumn. If this is the explanation for greater availability during the autumn, then it is possible that availability may tighten as we move into the new year. However, this remains to be seen.

Further Reading

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