Are Irish cattle being killed at younger ages?

There was a slight shift in the age profile of Irish cattle slaughterings in 2016, recent figures from the Department of Agriculture show.

Data taken from the department’s ‘AIM Bovine Statistics Report 2016’ shows that fewer cattle over the age of 30 months were slaughtered during the 2016 calendar year.

Some 605,461 cattle over 30 months were processed in approved beef plants last year – a drop of 12,307 head on the previous year’s levels. However, this category still accounted for almost 37% of the beef kill in 2016.

This drop coincided with the period when cow slaughterings jumped by about 38,000 head and aged bull throughput decreased marginally.

This suggests that farmers marketed their steers, heifers and young bulls at younger ages in 2016 as opposed to 2015.

Interestingly, in percentage terms, the number of cattle slaughtered between 24 and 30 months actually decreased last year. This category accounted for 32.6% of last year’s beef kill, whereas it made up 33.5% of total throughput in 2015.

Source: Department of Agriculture

Official figures also show that more cattle aged between 18 and 24 months were slaughtered last year. Some 401,456 of these cattle were slaughtered in 2016 – an increase of 62,261 head on the previous year’s levels.

There was also a noticeable jump in throughput in the 12-18 month category, as 93,840 of these animals were killed in 2016. These cattle accounted for 5.7% of the total beef kill last year, while they made up 5% of throughput in 2015.

Moving on to the 0-12 month category, some 5,792 head were slaughtered in approved plants last year. This is pretty similar to the throughput levels witnessed in 2015.

All-in-all, when all of the data is considered, it suggests that farmers slaughtered their stock at younger ages in 2016.

An increased focus on young bull production is the most likely reason for this outcome, as throughput of these animals increased by 38,550 head last year.

This occurred due to the favourable beef price being offered for these animals throughout the 2016 calendar year.