Northern Ireland Sees Slaughtering Age Down

UK - Bonuses and penalties on the age of prime cattle at slaughter are placed on producers by major processors. The Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC) for Northern Ireland has been looking into the implementation of these in the July to October period for 2012.
calendar icon 13 November 2012
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According to an LMC bulletin, for the year to date steers have accounted for 51.5 per cent of the prime kill compared to 52.6 per cent during the same period in 2011. Meanwhile heifers have accounted for 31.3 per cent of the prime kill for the year to date, down from 32.5 per cent in the same period in 2011.

Slaughter Age

The average age of slaughter for steers and heifers in NI has been gradually declining over the last number of years. For the period July to October 2012 the average age of slaughter was 26.3 months compared to 26.4 months in the same period in 2011 as outlined in Table 1.

This decline in the average age has meant steers and heifers were slaughtered on average four days sooner in July-Oct 2012 when compared to the same period in 2011 and 25 days sooner than the same period in 2010. The further reduction in the age at slaughter during JulyOctober 2012 compared to the same period in previous years has come about despite NI beef producers having to contend with one of the most difficult summers for grassland management on record.

As a result many producers have had to use higher levels of concentrates to maintain animal performance this summer.

Despite the average age at slaughter for price reported steers and heifers during July-October 2012 showing a decline on previous years the proportion slaughtered under 30 months of age has increased slightly year on year as outlined in Figure 1.

In July-October 2009 85.9 per cent of steers and heifers were under 30 months and this increased to 89.4 per cent during the same period in 2011 before showing a decline to 88.2 per cent in 2012. In July-October 2012 11.8 per cent of price reported steers and heifers were over 30 months compared to 10.6 per cent during the same period in 2011.

The upper age limit of slaughter for steers and heifers to avoid any penalty for the age of the animal is 30 months and after this penalties for overage are applied. At present the plants are quoting a penalty of 10p/kg for overage steers and heifers but these animals also fall outside the specification for the 8p/kg bonus which is currently available. This increases the potential differential to 18p/kg for animals under and over 30 months of age.

EU Price Check

With an equivalent average price of 433.7c/kg for the month ending the 28 October 2012 GB has retained top spot in the latest EU R3 heifer prices league table. This is despite a 5.8c/kg reduction on the previous month.

Meanwhile NI has moved down one place to sixth position on the table with an average R3 heifer price of 393.9c/kg. This is a reduction of 8.5c/kg on the previous month and puts NI prices 3.5c/kg below the EU average. This was the biggest reduction in the R3 heifer price across teh EU last month.

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