The average beef carcass weights of steers, heifers, cows and young bulls all witnessed a decrease in 2021, according to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM).

In a report published by the DAFM, all four of these categories witnessed a fall in average carcass weights, with the most significant fall noticed in the young bull category.

The Beef Carcass Classification and Price Reporting – Annual Report 2021 also shows that as well as a fall in weights, a fall in the number of cattle processed in all of these categories was also recorded.

Average carcass weights by year and category (kg cold) from 2012 to 2021:

YearSteers HeifersCowsYoung bulls

As the table above indicates, the average carcass weights of steers, heifers, cows and young bulls all decreased in 2021, by 4kg, 5kg, 6kg and 8kg respectively.

The report notes that the total slaughtering at DAFM plants decreased by 98,251 in 2021 (1,687,127) when compared to 2020 (1,785,378).

Steers accounted for 40.0% of the overall kill, heifers accounted for 28.4% and cows accounted for 21% of the beef kill last year.

Average weights, confirmation and fat classes, and the percentage of cattle in each grade and fat class in 2021: (Source DAFM)

Young bulls accounted for 7.7% of the kill in 2021. The number of young bulls slaughtered in 2021 (129,844) decreased by 10,489 when compared to 2020 (140,333).

Young bull slaughtering accounted for 15.6% of the overall adult male slaughter in 2021, compared to 16.2% in 2020 and 24% in 2019. The number of young bulls slaughtered peaked in 2019 at 210,158.

The number of steers slaughtered in 2021 (674,485) decreased by 21,203 compared to 2020 (695,688), and accounted for 81.2% of the overall adult male cattle processed in 2021 compared to 80.1% in 2020.

Seasonality of slaughtering:

Percentage of overall annual kill slaughtered in each 3-month period (quarter) from 2012-2021

The number of heifers processed in 2021 (479,639) decreased by 40,840 on 2020 (520,479) and accounted for 57.5% of the adult female slaughter.

The number of cows processed in 2021 (354,116) decreased by 13,607 on 2020 (367,723) and accounted for 42.5% of the adult female slaughter.

Local Authority plants

The total kill at Local Authority plants increased in 2021 by 3,560 cattle to 99,886 compared to 2020, when 96,326 cattle were processed at local authority-approved plants.

Number of cattle processed from 2012-2021:

Weights and fat classes

In 2021, 59% of steers, 58% of heifers and 46% of young bull carcasses weighed between 280-380kg.

A total of 22% of steers, 6% of heifers and 35% of young bull carcasses were greater than 400kg.

Percentage of steers, heifers and young bulls in each weight range from 2014-2021

83.7% of steers and 89.3% of heifers fall into fat class three or four, however in the case of young bulls, the majority fall into fat class two and three at 42.7% and 49.9% respectively.


The beef kill report also outlines that total cattle exports decreased by 19,253 head in 2021 compared to 2020.

Live exports of calves, weanlings, stores and finished cattle from 2012 to 2021:

The live export of calves decreased by 2,215 head to 141,494 in 2021, while the live export of weanlings decreased by 17,982 head.

However, exports of stores and finished cattle increased by 1,480 compared to 2020.