Dairy herd restocking brings more beef to EU market

After three years of continuous decline, the EU beef production is likely to increase in 2014 by more than 110 000 tonnes compared to 2013 according to a European Commisson outlook.

It says this development is mainly driven by the increase in the number of dairy cows in anticipation of the abolition of the dairy quota system and the consecutive higher availability of bovine animals. In addition, lower feed costs and good forage quality could result in higher carcass weights. In the first seven months of the year, slaughterings are estimated 1.4% above last year.

The Commissions outlook highlights that the situation at Member State level is very diverse and depends mainly on the stage of each country as regards the re-building process of their dairy herd.

For example, it cites in Germany and in Ireland, slaughterings in the first seven months of the year are well above the respective 2013 numbers (by 3% and 15% respectively) because of a higher number of cull cows as well as more dairy male bovine animals fattened. It says in these two countries, the number of dairy cows is temporarily increasing by 2.1% and 5.4% respectively, according to the May-June livestock survey, but since this increase started 4 years ago, it has already brought additional meat on the market.

On the contrary, in Spain and Italy, which are at an earlier stage of the re-building process with high rates of herd increase (at +5.2% and +3% respectively), the first effect to be felt is a lack of females to be slaughtered, leading to a decrease of around 4 to 5% in net production in the first seven months of the year.

The outlook also outlines that france finds itself at an intermediate stage; slaughterings have decreased by 1% in the first seven months of the year compared to 2013 because farmers keep on bringing more heifers in milk production; the May-June livestock survey showed the number of dairy cows 2% above last year. Moreover, the decline in the number of beef cows might have come to an end, since both the latest livestock surveys indicate a stabilisation of the herd. This might also be the case in Spain.

However, it says in the United Kingdom and Ireland, accounting for 2.5 million heads of suckler cows, the on-going expansion of the dairy herd takes place at the expense of the number of beef cows which is further decreasing.

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