The total number of beef cattle processed at Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) approved factories in 2021 has fallen by over 90,000 head (including veal), when compared to 2020 throughput levels.

Following last week’s kill (week 52 of 2021) we see the total throughput is back by 5.07% including veal.

The week commencing December 27, witnessed a rather small beef kill as many processors only had two or three-day kills last week with the bank holidays after Christmas.

A total of 20,216 head of cattle was processed last week including veal – making it the smallest weekly kill of the year.

The figures below give an overview of the composition of the overall 2021 beef kill:

CategoryCumulative beef kill including week commencing December 27, 2021Cumulative beef kill including week commencing December 21, 2020Difference in throughput to date
Young Bull129,844139,770-9,926
Veal (V)21,00726,937-5,930
Veal (Z)1,6941,651+43
Source: DAFM

An analysis of the above figures shows heifer throughput witnessed the most significant drop in 2021 – falling by almost 39,000 head.

Looking to 2022 and signals would indicate kill numbers are set to bounce back this year.

2019 saw record levels of calf exports which would have impacted the number of beef cattle available in 2021, however, 2020 witnessed calf export numbers fall significantly as a result of a number of factors; namely, Covid-19.

Despite this, calf exports tend to be linked to bull calves as opposed to heifer calves, however the most significant dip in kill numbers was witnessed in the heifer category last year which may indicate other factors are altering the beef kill trends also.

Looking at the beef trade presently and market signals would indicate that no large supply of finished beef cattle is currently available to factories and the market is likely to remain this way for at least the first quarter of the year.