Northern Irish Cow Slaughtering Up 4.5 Per Cent

UK - Higher cow throughput has offset lighter average carcase weights, which have been 4.3 kilos lighter on last year, according to the Livestock and Meat Commission.
calendar icon 21 August 2013
clock icon 4 minute read

With autumn approaching we are moving towards the peak cow slaughtering period in NI so it is perhaps a useful time to look at the cow kill for 2013 to date, write market analysts at the Livestock and Meat Commission.

In the period January to July 2013 a total of 50,922 cows were slaughtered in NI plants compared to the 48,740 head slaughtered in the corresponding period in 2012.

This represents a 4.5 per cent increase in cow throughput for the year to date. This increase in throughput has been offset to some degree by a drop in average carcase weights from 300.7kg in the 2012 period to 296.4kg in the 2013 period.

This drop by 4.3kg represents a 1.5 per cent drop in average carcase weights year on year. Chart 1 outlines the proportion of cows within a range of carcase weight categories during July 2013 and the corresponding period in July 2012.

As indicated in Chart 1 the most notable decline has been the drop in the proportion of cow carcases over 340kg from 26per cent of the price reported cow kill during July 2012 to 22 per cent during July 2013. Meanwhile the proportion of carcases falling within the 260-280kg, 280-300kg and 300-320kg weight ranges each increased in the region of two percentage points year on year.

The processors have a preference for cows which will kill out with carcase weights in excess of 300kg. Current base quotes from the plants are for O+3 and better grading cows and the price paid for all other grades of cows are worked out from here. The prices paid for cows tend to be based on both the grade and carcaseweight ofthe cows presented for slaughter.

For the purposes of analysis the average prices paid for O3 and P2 cows during July 2013 across the range of carcase weight brackets have been displayed in Chart 2. The chart clearly indicates that the price paid for both grades increased as the carcase weight increased up until the 300-340kg weight range.

Livestock and Meat Commission analysts say that the average price paid per kg for cowcarcases over 340kg showed a slight dropwhen compared to the price paid for cattle in the 320-340kg carcase weight range for both grades. Table 1 outlines the average price paid for the most common grades of cows during the month ofJuly 2013. There is a gradual increase in the average price paid as the carcase grade improves.


This is unsurprising given that better quality carcases can be utilised by the processors to fulfil a wider order base. It is also worth noting that there has been a change in the make up in the NI cow kill year on year. In July 2013 54 per cent of the price reported cow kill were of suckler origin compared to 45 per cent in July 2012.

This increase in the proportion of the cow kill sourced from the suckler herd has resulted in an improvementin the grading results ofthe cowkill. The proportion of cows achieving an O3 grade increased from 13.4 per cent in July 2012 to 20.7 per cent in July 2013 while the proportion of cows achieving an R3 grade increased from 5.1 per cent to 7.9 per cent between the two periods.

Meanwhile the proportion of cows awarded a P grade showed a decline year on year to coincide with the decline in dairy influence in the cowkill. The increasing proportion of the cow kill sourced from the suckler herd may be one explanation for the average cow carcase weight not declining to the same degree as the prime cattle kill.

As previously mentioned the average cow carcase weight for the period January-July 2013 was back 4.3kg on the same period the previous year while the average prime cattle carcase weight declined by 14kg between the same two periods.

The increase in the proportion of suckler cows in the NI cowkill year on year should be of concern to the NI beef industry as a whole moving forward. The increased number of suckler cows being slaughtered during 2013 to date is likely to be a knock on effect of the difficult production conditions experienced by producers during 2012/13, the negative impact this had on cow fertility and subsequently the number of calves produced.

The current high costs of maintaining a suckler cow and relatively high cowbeef price will have encouraged producers to cull unproductive or underperforming cows.

It is also worth noting that the number of heifers being slaughtered in NI plants during 2013 to date has totalled 73,739 head, an eight per cent increase on the 68,592 heifers slaughtered in the corresponding period in 2012. This may indicate that fewer heifers are being retained for breeding which is particularly concerning given the increase in the number of cows being killed.

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