O and P-grade animals dominate Irish beef cattle supplies

Recent figures have revealed the extent to which O and P-grade cattle, dairy-origin stock in other words, have dominated the Irish beef kill between January and June of this year.

During this period, some 830,587 cattle were slaughtered in Department of Agriculture approved beef export plants. This figure encompasses young bulls, aged bulls (24+ months), steers, heifers and cows.

Figures from the department have shown that approximately 55% – the equivalent of 310,819 head – of these cattle were classified as O or P grades at the time of slaughter.

In addition, E-grade cattle accounted for the lowest proportion of the total kill during the first six months of 2017. Just 2,398 cattle or 2.2% of the total kill reached the highest grade possible on the grid during this time.

Furthermore, U and R-grade stock – accounting for the vast majority of suckler-origin cattle – made up 12.6% (104,944 head) and 31.7% (263,599 head) of the beef kill respectively.

Young and aged bulls

Figures from the department also show that, across all the categories, the highest proportion of E-grade cattle were found in both the young bull and aged bull groups.

Looking at the breakdown of young bull grades in detail, approximately 2.2% of the 109,010 head slaughtered between January and June fell into the E-grade category.

And unlike the total kill, which was dominated by O and P-grade stock, the majority of young bulls graded U (41%) or R (28.5%) at the time of slaughter.

Dairy-origin and poorer quality continental cattle, which occupy the O and P-grade sections of the grid, accounted for 28.5% of the young bulls slaughtered in the first half of this year.

Moving on to aged bulls, or those over 24-months-of-age at slaughter, department figures show that 2.2% (303 head) of these animals graded E, 29.9% (4,117 head) were U grade and 30% (4,131 head) were classified as R grades on the grid.

Steers and heifers

Official figures also show that some 292,723 steers and 231,390 heifers were slaughtered in approved export plants between January and June.

Focusing on steers first, the majority of these were classified as being either O (31.5%) or P (12.2%) on the grid.

Steers falling into the E, U and R-grade categories accounted for 117,676 cattle – the smallest proportion of which were E-grade animals. These made up just 0.1% of the steer kill during the first six months of the year.

Likewise, just 0.1% of all the heifers slaughtered between January and June graded E.

For the most part the heifer kill, which consisted of 231,390 head, was dominated by heifers producing R and O-grade carcasses.

U-grade heifers accounted for 11.3% (26,147 head) and P grades made up 10.4% (24,065 head) of all of the heifers slaughtered in the first half of this year.

Nearly 86% of cows grade O or below

The figures also reveal that nearly 86% of the cows slaughtered in the first six months of 2017 graded O or poorer; some 31.3% (57,496 head) were O grades and 54.3% (99,746 head) graded P.

In addition, just 2.1% (3,858 head) of the cows slaughtered between January and June graded U, while 22,594 R grade cows were processed in the same period.