EU beef cow numbers decline by 100,000 head

The EU has just released its short-term agricultural outlook report for spring 2019.

As we all know, the extreme weather conditions experienced in 2018 led to an increase in cow throughput and, in the end, beef production which – according to the report – jumped by 1.8% and was greater than anticipated.

In 2018, the EU cow herd decreased by 1.3%; beef cow numbers dropped by 100,000 head. The countries which recorded the notable declines were: France; Belgium; the UK; and Ireland.

On the other hand, dairy cow numbers in the EU dropped by 375,000 head; herd reductions were witnessed in the Netherlands, Italy, Denmark and France.

In addition, with the total cow herd continuing to decline, EU beef production is expected to decline by 1.3% during 2019.

This is mainly due to lower cow numbers in key beef producing countries such as France, the Netherlands, Italy, Denmark and the UK.

According to the short-term outlook report, it states that: “Production in Ireland is forecast to remain firm with a reduction in live exports, combined with an increase in calf registrations during 2018, expected to increase cattle availability for slaughter during 2019.”

Beef price

Beef farmers in Ireland have been paid a very low price for beef over the past couple of months.

However, this week, this downward prices pressure was somewhat removed with farmers in a better position when it comes to marketing their cattle.

Also Read: Beef trade: The ball is back at the feet of farmers

According to the report, strong cattle supplies for slaughter in the second half of 2018 put this downward pressure on deadweight prices across the EU.

The report states that with more limited supplies forecast this may put some upward pressure on deadweight prices as the year progresses; this will be welcome news for beef finishers going forward.

Beef consumption

Moreover, the report outlines that beef consumption in the EU is forecast to decrease slightly during 2019 with the lower domestic supply of beef only partially offset by the forecast increase in imported product.

EU beef exports declined by 7.5% during 2018 as a result of reduced demand from key markets such as the Philippines and Hong Kong.

In 2019, exports are expected to increase by 3% in 2019; however, this is dependent upon a recovery in demand in Asia and, in particular, Hong Kong.

Beef imports increased by 9.4% during 2018, primarily due to a recovery in imports from Brazil where issues around food hygiene and traceability have been improved to meet EU standards.

Furthermore, there has also been a continued recovery in EU beef imports from Argentina; imports are expected to increase by a further 4% in 2019.