Beef kill year-to-date figures back on 2019 levels

Niall Claffey May 2, 2020, 3:00pm Source – Argiland

As we enter into the last month of spring, AgriLand takes a look back at the beef kill to date. From the onset of the year, supplies were predicted to tighten into the summer months, with many hoping that this fall in readily available cattle would result in higher prices.

This drop has come to light in recent weeks, but Covid-19 has played a role with a depressed appetite for cattle due to a collapse in the foodservice sector and this is expected to continue in the short-term at least.

Additionally, many farmers have re-jigged plans and turned cattle – that were due to be finished in the coming weeks – back to grass in the hope for higher prices during the backend of the year – resulting in lower throughput in the short-term.

Another aspect that is leading to a lower throughput is the absence of young bulls. Really from January 2019, farmers faced issues with getting bulls slaughtered and were also exposed to severe price cuts – even specialist bull beef finishers were exposed to this uncertainty.

While bull beef production had the ability to produce higher margins in recent years, as a result of these issues, many farmers have moved away from this production system which will result in a lower throughput in the coming weeks.

Normally, bulls born in spring would be approaching 16-months during the following summer months, therefore putting a floor under throughput.

However, with many turning to steer production, lower young bull throughput is expected in the coming weeks.

Last, week some 1,995 young bulls were slaughtered; however, 3,880 young bulls were slaughtered during the same week in 2019. Overall, some 63,785 young bulls have been killed in 2020 – a fall of 26,342 head on the corresponding period in 2019.

The change in system is also evident when we look at the steer category. The number of steers slaughtered has increased and is the only category to do so. Some 9,882 bullocks were processed last week – back 658 head on the same week in 2019, but some 9,175 ahead overall on year-to-date figures.

Cow figures are also back on 2019 throughput levels. During the same January to April period in 2019, 115,844 cows were slaughtered. But, including last week, only 105,145 cows have been slaughtered in 2020 – a reduction of 10,699 head.

Heifer throughput stood at 8,449 head last week – back 858 head on the same week in 2019. So far in 2020, 180,467 heifers have been slaughtered – a slight drop of 1,175 head on the corresponding period in 2019.

Looking at the overall kill to date, supplies are back 30,460 head on 2019 levels.