LMC: Tightening Supplies Across UK

NORTHERN IRELAND, UK - Earlier in February, LMC reported on the substantial decline in the availability of cattle in Northern Ireland relative to the same period last year.
calendar icon 27 February 2012
clock icon 3 minute read

In January, the prime cattle kill was about 15 per cent lower than in January 2011, with the cow kill just slightly lower. The latest figures from DEFRA show that the decline in cattle supplies in NI corresponded with a substantial decline in factory throughputs in GB. This follows last year, when factory throughput in GB held up very well relative to NI levels.

GB represents the main market for NI beef and the availability of slaughter cattle in GB has an important impact on the local beef trade. Furthermore, any tightening supplies in GB has much greater potential to impact the overall UK trade than a tightening in supplies confined solely to Northern Ireland given the greater numbers of cattle in GB. In January, NI accounted for about 17 per cent of the prime UK kill.

The 15 per cent decline in prime cattle supplies in NI last month accounted for a decline of around 5,500 head in throughput. Last month the prime cattle kill in GB was 11 per cent lower than in January 2011, a decline of about 20,000 head. This is a significant reduction which put a serious dent in beef production during January across the UK. Total UK beef production has fallen by 11,000 tonnes compared to last January with beef offal production down by almost 1,000 tonnes.

Table 1 clearly shows that the combination of the decline in supplies in GB and NI led to a decline of 25,000 head in the UK prime kill in January. In NI the cow kill held up reasonably well, but the GB cow kill fell by 7,000 head year-on-year exacerbating the tight supply situation generally across the UK in January.

It would seem that supplies are set to remain tight in GB over the course of the coming months. The latest information from the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS) show a significant tightening of the number of cattle on the ground. The number of beef males on the ground aged between 24 and 30 months at 1st January was down by 23 per cent year-on-year. This will have been one of the factors in the reduced kill during January and will continue to have an impact over the coming months. Reduced dairy males on the ground also has a significant impact on the number of cattle available for slaughter in GB. The number of dairy males between 12-24 months in GB was 13 per cent lower year-on-year on 1st January.

While beef supplies contracted sharply during January, hogget supplies in GB also fell, although not to the same extent. This contrasts sharply with the trend in NI during January where the hogget kill increased by 25 per cent last month, year-on-year.

The NI sheep kill accounts for a very small proportion of the UK sheep kill, particularly now that so much stock is exported to ROI for direct slaughter from NI.

Last month the GB hogget kill fell by five per cent year-on-year, or by about 49,000 head. With the NI kill up by a modest 4,750 head in January, the overall decline in the UK kill was about 44,500 head compared to last January.

The decline in GB hogget production in January was most pronounced in Scotland where throughput was back by a substantial 13 per cent. In general across the UK, ewe and ram slaughterings were well below January 2011 figures, with a 13 per cent decline across the UK. In contrast with the hogget situation however, the decline in ewe and ram slaughterings in Scotland was less pronounced, with a six per cent decline in slaughterings.

Further Reading

- You can view the full report by clicking here.

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