Bull and cow slaughter numbers fall

The spread of the Covid-19 virus has had a major impact of the beef market here in Ireland and across Europe, as countries implement ‘lockdown’ procedures in a bid to curtail the virus outbreak.

One area which has been dealt a major blow is the food service sector, which – in turn – has reduced demand for cows in Irish factories. And since the nosedive in food service sales, cow prices have been under pressure at the factory gate.

This price pressure was quick to filter down to mart level, with many mart managers noting a more difficult trade for cull cows in the last week or so.

Last week, some 6,701 cows were slaughtered – a fall of 514 head, which can be attributed to the reduction in demand. The move by McDonalds and Supermac’s to close will further impact on demand.

Saying that, last week’s cow kill was 731 head above the same week in 2019. Overall, some 80,532 cows have been slaughtered in Ireland this year.

The bull category also witnessed a decline in throughput. Firstly, the number of young bulls bought by beef processing plants amounted to 2,698 head – a drop of 587 head, while the aged bull category fell by 275 head – down from 748 head last week.

Total year-to-date slaughterings for young bulls and aged bulls stand at 52,115 head and 6,766 head respectively.

Another area which recorded a drop in throughput was the bullock category – but only slightly. Last week, some 13,098 steers were slaughtered – down from 13,213 two weeks age; this represents a fall of 115 head.

The steer kill is also operating above last year’s levels at 147,766 head.

However, the number of heifers slaughtered last week increased by 275 head and amounted to 11,494 head. So far this year, 136,114 heifers have been killed in Irish beef processing factories – up 5,963 head on 2019 levels.

The total kill for last week hit 37,898 head. But, if we subtract the 3,434 calves that were processed, that leaves the kill at 34,464 head.

Week-on-week beef kill changes (week ending March 15):
  • Young bulls: 2,698 head (-587 head or -17%);
  • Bulls: 473 head (-275 head or -37%);
  • Steers: 13,098 head (-115 head or -1%);
  • Cows: 6,701 head (-514 head or -7%);
  • Heifers: 11,494 head (+275 head or +2.5%);
  • Total: 34,464 head (-1,216 head or -3%).