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AHDB Cattle and Sheep Weekly

27 January 2014

EBLEX Cattle Weekly - 24 January 2014EBLEX Cattle Weekly - 24 January 2014

Ample supplies tip balance in the cattle trade

The previously fine balance in the prime cattle trade continues to be influenced by increased numbers coming forward, this at a time when consumer demand is seasonally slow. AHDB/EBLEX estimates suggest that in week ended 18 January throughputs were up by 6% (almost 2,000 head) on the week, and 7% up on the corresponding week last year. Reports suggest that with ample supplies to meet processors’ needs, cattle outside supermarket specification are still proving difficult to place, in some cases even attracting significant penalties. With a significant upturn in demand unlikely in the short term, unless some real winter weather arrives, the supply side of the equation remains crucial to pricing.

In the latest week price falls were evident across most cattle categories, both steer and heifer values declined 2p on the week to 378.7p/kg and 378.4p/kg respectively. In contrast, and following declines since late November, the overall average young bull price levelled at 343.0p/kg. Overall, the all-prime indicator fell by another 2p/kg to average 375.7p/kg. Although at its lowest point since March 2013, this price is still more than 3% ahead of year-earlier levels.

Cattle throughputs finish the year lower

UK prime cattle slaughterings in December totalled 138,000 head, 1% lower compared with the corresponding month last year. Continuing recent developments, throughputs of steers were significantly lower on the year, being back 5%, while heifer throughputs were broadly level year on year. Cull cow and adult bull throughputs continued the trend of the second half of the year, being back 11% on the year at 42,900 head. With lower carcase weights again exacerbating the reduced numbers, total beef and veal production in the UK during December was almost 4% lower year on year, having totalled 60,600 tonnes.

The total number of prime cattle slaughtered in the UK during 2013 was back 2% on the year, at 1.93 million head. As a reflection of the smaller cattle herd, this takes the prime cattle kill to its lowest point since at least 1970, when DEFRA records began, and probably longer.

A full review of throughputs in 2013 and the subsequent impact on production is available on the EBLEX website.

Irish beef and veal production higher in 2013

The December 2012 Irish cattle census delivered evidence of growing confidence in the Irish cattle sector. Overall cattle numbers were up with most of this increase resulting from large rises in the number of cattle less than two years old. As expected, this has resulted in more beef coming onto the market in 2013. According to the Irish Central Statistics Office, total cattle slaughterings were up 7% on the year. As a result, production in 2013 was up 5% on the year at 518,000 tonnes.

Bord bia estimates indicate that the Irish cow kill was 11% higher year on year, with prime cattle slaughterings 6% higher.

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