Analysis: 60,000 extra cattle in 2016 but they won’t flood the factories with beef

There has been much talk already this year on how Irish cattle supplies will develop over the next 18 months.

Beef farmers are looking to the future tentatively with reports of huge numbers of dairy-bred cattle set to come forward over the next year and a half.

Bord Bia says 60,000 – 80,000 extra head of cattle is going to come through the system in 2016 due to a large increase in calf registrations in 2014.

However, the IFA says that that the increase in supplies will not be as large as expected as the increased numbers of dairy bred cattle will have lower carcase weights.

Cattle Supplies

According to Bord Bia, an increase of almost 28,000 head in live cattle exports in 2014 helped partly offset a rise of more than 100,000 head in calf registrations.

However, it says this increase points to a pick-up in finished cattle supplies as 2016 progresses.

Bord Bia cites figures from the Department of Agriculture’s AIM database for September 1, 2015, which show a decline of 37,000 head in the number of male cattle aged 18–24 months while numbers in the 12–18 months category were 36,000 head higher, relative to a year earlier.

Female numbers in the 18–24 months age bracket were 35,000 head lower while numbers of heifers aged 12–18 months were 30,000 head higher.

Bord Bia says taking these figures into account, supplies at export plants are expected to be tight in the first half of 2016 before recovering in the second half to leave supplies for 2016 up between 60,000 and 80,000 head.

Carcase weights

Following two years of growth in carcase weights, some stability is anticipated in 2016, however much will depend on weather conditions throughout the year.

These developments would leave export availability standing at around 525,000 tonnes, a rise of around 5%.

Henry Burns has been very critical of commentators on the beef sector saying they are ‘jumping on the factory bandwagon’ to ‘talk down’ the beef trade and erode farmer confidence for 2016.

He said the way the figures around the extra numbers for 2016 have been used and abused is incredible.

“The reality is 50,000 to 70,000 additional cattle have been forecast (in 2016). These extra numbers are exaggerated as carcase weights will revert to 2014 levels or 5kg less than 2015 levels, which amounts to a reduction equivalent to 20,000 head.

“In addition, supplies this spring and summer will be tighter than last year with any increase only coming in the last quarter. Numbers were forecasted to be tighter pre-Christmas and this scarcity may still transpire.”

Henry Burns also said there is a good possibility that the live export trade to Libya or Egypt will resume and this will also reduce numbers. He said IFA is working hard on this.

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