Bumper beef kill: Supplies break 40,000 head for the first time in almost 10 years

Buoyed by a lack of fodder, increased factory demand and relatively strong prices, the number of cattle slaughtered in Department of Agriculture approved beef plants has swelled in recent weeks.

During the week ending December 3, some 40,529 cattle were processed in such plants – the highest weekly throughput in almost 10 years. The last time that the weekly beef kill reached such a height was back in October 2008.

Steer and heifer throughput continues to lead the way; collectively these accounted for almost 62% of all of the beef cattle slaughtered in Ireland last week.

Additionally, young bull and cow slaughterings also peaked last week at 5,684 head and 9,143 head respectively.

Week-on-week beef kill changes (week ending December 3):
  • Young bull: 5,684 head (+144 head or +2.6%);
  • Aged bull: 528 head (-40 head or -7%);
  • Steers: 13,586 head (-390 head or -2.8%);
  • Cows: 9,143 head (+286 head or +3.3%);
  • Heifers: 11,532 head (+738 head or +6.8%);
  • Total: 40,529 head (+703 head or +1.8%).

Given the strong numbers of cattle being marketed in recent weeks, the cumulative beef kill for the year-to-date is running 6.3% or 96,205 head above 2016 levels; almost 1.62 million cattle have been slaughtered in Ireland this year.

For the most part, this has been driven by additional steer (+8.8%), heifer (+7.5%) and cow (+4.7%) slaughterings. However, the cumulative young and aged bull kill has slipped slightly on last year’s levels.

Year-on-year beef kill changes (week ending December 3):
  • Young bull: 173,893 head (-3,168 head or -1.8%);
  • Aged bulls: 26,648 head (-1,117 head or -4%);
  • Steers: 639,792 head (+51,883 head or +8.8%);
  • Cows: 348,647 head (+15,617 head or +4.7%);
  • Heifers: 423,124 head (+29,531 head or +7.5%);
  • Total: 1,619,430 head (+96,205 head or +6.3%).

What does it mean for demand?

Despite the relatively large kill, the demand for beef remains relatively strong as beef buyers continue to hunt for cattle ahead of the lucrative Christmas market.

Given this demand, farmers have been urged to bargain hard when it comes to marketing their cattle. This week, factories have generally offered 385-390c/kg for steers and 395-400c/kg for heifers.

Beef prices for the week ending December 3

However, many farmers have been receiving prices of 5-10c/kg in-excess of these; especially when they have larger numbers of in-spec cattle to market. At the upper end of the scale, some heifer deals have been completed at 405-409c/kg.

Despite the relative strength in the prime beef market of late, cow prices have remained steady this week; most buyers are offering 310-320c/kg for P-grade and 325-340c/kg for O-grade animals. R-grade cows are making 340-355c/kg. Click here for a detailed breakdown of factory prices