Cattle Kill Under Pressure in Northern Ireland

NORTHERN IRELAND, UK - In April, the Northern Irish (NI) cattle kill remained under pressure with the kill down two per cent on the same period last year, reports the Livestock and Meat Commission.
calendar icon 18 May 2012
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However, there are signs of supply starting to stabilise with numbers of cattle presented for slaughter having been significantly lower over the last 12 months. Meanwhile the NI sheep kill continues to rise (year-on-year), reflecting increased slaughterings generally in Ireland as a whole and reduced exports of live sheep to ROI for direct slaughter.

Over the course of the year to date, the prime cattle kill is down 12 per cent compared to the same period last year. The cull cow kill is three per cent lower. Last month the prime cattle kill was down three per cent compared to April 2011. With a stronger cull cow kill, the overall cattle kill was down two per cent on the year. This decline is noteworthy for several reasons.

Firstly, in April last year, the kill was significantly lower than previous years. Indeed last April marked the start of the current cycle of tighter supplies. A further decline this year must be seen in that context as it represents a compounding of the decline last year. Secondly, the rate of decline appears to have slowed. In the first four months of the year numbers were back by about 12 per cent year-onyear. The slower rate of decline in April perhaps indicates that supplies may be beginning to stabilise as would be expected as we move through the year.

Last month the steer kill was three per cent higher than in April 2011. The young bull kill which has been in steep decline for the last year was down by eight per cent compared to last April.

It is notable that the heifer kill is down by 9 per cent compared to last April when almost 9,900 heifers were slaughtered. In April 2010 over 11,700 heifers were slaughtered, so last month’s kill was effectively down by 23 per cent since April 2010. This decline certainly reflects a reduction in the number of cattle on the ground, but it may also reflect increased retentions of heifers for breeding. The June Agricultural Census will give a good indication of whether there has been a further increase in the number of beef cows / heifers-in-calf on the ground in NI this spring.

This April the cow kill has been higher than last April, driven mainly by an increase in the beef cow kill compared to last year. About 400 mature bulls were slaughtered in April, down from just over 500 last month.

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