Beef cattle numbers remain tight as grass cattle are slow to come on stream

The weekly supply of beef cattle continues to remain tight with just over 28,000 cattle slaughtered at Department of Agriculture approved beef export plants last week.

The sub-30,000 kill means that cattle supplies have been below 30,000 head for the past four weeks.

However, there has been a small increase in the number of cattle slaughtered during the week ending May 15, with throughput up 649 head on the week previous, figures from the Department show.

The majority of this increase is due to a rise in the young bull kill, which is up 22% or 708 head on the week ending May 8.

But, there has been very little change in the weekly throughput of steers and heifers. Steer throughput fell by 1.8%, while the heifer kill has jumped by only 40 head.

Looking at the cull throughput, aged bull slaughterings have increased by 3%, while official figures show a 0.2% fall in cow slaughterings.

Weekly beef kill changes:
  • Young bull: +708 head (+22%)
  • Bull: +18 head (+3%)
  • Steer: -179 head (-1.8%)
  • Cow: -13 head (-0.2%)
  • Heifer: +40 head (+0.5%)
  • Total: +649 head (+2.3%)

Grass cattle slow to come on stream

Beef cattle numbers have tightened over the last couple of months as grass cattle are slow to come on stream, according to Bord Bia’s Joe Burke.

Speaking to Agriland, the Beef and Livestock Sector Manager said that the late spring pushed back turnout by four-to-six weeks and this is causing a delay in the grass cattle kill.

And as a result, Burke added that grass cattle supplies are likely to remain tight for the rest of May and into June before numbers start to pick up again.

Bord Bia expects an additional 60,000-80,000 cattle to be slaughtered in Ireland during the second have of the year.

Cumulative cattle supply

However, despite some tightening in cattle supplies over the past month, official figures show that the cumulative beef kill so far this year is running 2.2% ahead of the same period in 2015.

This increase is due to a 31% hike in young bull production, with an additional 20,560 young bulls slaughtered to the week ending May 15.

But, figures from the Department of Agriculture show that there has been just over 5,000 fewer steer slaughterings so far this year, while heifer and cow throughput remain on par with last year.