The culling of cows to offset the impact of the summer drought has seen cattle intakes at beef plants hit a 15-year high for the month of September.

Total September supplies to the factories exceeded 154,000 head – compared to 145,000 head in 2017. Last month’s figure is the highest monthly kill in September since 2003, when 160,000 head were processed by the factories.

Joe Burke, Bord Bia Beef and Livestock manager, said that the year to-date cattle supplies are running more than 48,000 ahead of 2017. The weekly kill has topped 39,000hd six weeks earlier than in 2017.

Intake at the 26 beef export factories for the last week of September 2018 was 39,225 head, the highest weekly intake for September in more than a decade.

“Peak supplies last year were recorded during the months of November and December” said Mr Burke. “Based on the latest analysis for the national herd and the trends already recorded, we would expect any further increase in supplies later in the year to be limited”.

Since mid-June the off-loading of cows has added an extra 16,000 head to the total kill compared to 2017.

The steer supply at 17,329 head was down from 19,222 last year, but the drop was more than compensated for by an increase in cows, heifers and young bulls. The supply of cows at 8,376 was up from 6,753 last year. Heifer numbers were up 1,200 and young bulls up by almost 600.

Steers supply

Mr Burke predicts that the availability of steers is likely to continue to be lower than last year. The data shows that there were 8,500 fewer male cattle in the 12-24 month age bracket on August 1 due to rising live exports and more beef farmers opting to finish male animals earlier as young bulls.