The number of cows slaughtered in the first three weeks of 2023 is running almost 4,000 cows ahead of the same time period last year, according to beef kill figures from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM).

This continues the trend seen last year when an additional 59,000 cows were processed, resulting in a total of 413,410 cows slaughtered at DAFM-approved factories in 2022.

In the week ending Sunday, January 21, just under 8,600 cows were processed at DAFM-approved factories.

This marks an increase of just over 1,500 cows on the number processed in the same week of 2022.

While the number of cows processed to date this year has increased, the weekly kills of heifers and steers are showing indications of falling.

The table below shows the composition of the beef kill at DAFM-approved plants to date this year compared to the same time period last year:

Week commencing January 16, 2023Week commencing January 17, 2022Total to date in 2023Total to date in 2022
Young Bulls:3,3484,27510,74311,260
Veal (V):553233
Veal (Z):292712181
Source: DAFM

With huge costs being faced by winter beef finishers this season, trends would indicate higher numbers of farmers opting not to purchase cattle for finishing this winter and instead, storing cattle over the winter for a grass finish later in the year.

This is likely to lead to a dip in the supply of finished cattle over the coming weeks and higher numbers of cattle being processed in the second part of the year.

Beef price outlook

Bord Bia’s market outlooks for Irish beef appears relatively positive in 2023, and Teagasc’s outlook for finished and young cattle prices reflects this forecasted trend.

Teagasc has said the average Irish finished cattle prices in 2023 are forecast to be 4% higher relative to 2022.

Furthermore, the average Irish young cattle prices in 2023 are forecast to be 5% higher in 2023 relative to 2022, according to Teagasc.

However, while cattle prices are forecast to be higher, these prices will not necessarily reflect higher gross margins on beef farms in 2023.

Direct costs of production on cattle finishing farms are forecast to increase by 5% in 2023 and the average gross margin per hectare is forecast to remain unchanged at €626/ha.

On suckler farms, the cost of production is forecast to go up by 3% in 2023 and the average gross margin is forecast to increase by 11% to €520/ha in 2023.

The introduction of the Suckler Carbon Efficiency Programme, the Agri-Climate Rural Environment Scheme (ACRES) and other policy supports can contribute to increases in farm income on cattle farms in 2022, Teagasc added.