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LMC: Cattle Supplies Remain Tight in March

11 April 2012

NORTHERN IRELAND, UK - The Northern Irish (NI) cattle kill remained under pressure in March following sharp year-on-year declines in the kill in January and February.

Numbers have been very weak in recent months with the total cattle kill down by 14 per cent since the start of the year, and this rate of decline was sustained in March. Last month the prime cattle kill was 14 per cent lower year-on-year. The heifer kill was down by 17 per cent, perhaps a sign of more heifers being retained for breeding.

The steer and young bull kill was down by 13 per cent. This substantial decline reflects the reduced number of male cattle on the ground generally relative to last year.

The tight cattle supply over the first quarter is in stark contrast to the same period last year when the kill remained relatively strong. It is important to bear in mind that while numbers were very tight in 2011, the decline in supplies did not really start in earnest until last April. In the first quarter of 2011 the industry was still in a cycle of strong supply. Therefore the weakening of supplies in the first quarter of 2012 must be viewed relative to that stronger supply situation and not seen as a compounding of the general decline in numbers that was evident over 2011 as a whole.

While prime cattle supplies were weak generally throughout 2011, a strong cow kill helped counterbalance that decline. This year so far the cow kill is down six per cent year on year with an eight per cent decline in March. The mature bull kill (bulls over 24mths) is also weaker with numbers down by 40 per cent.

While beef numbers have been under pressure in the factories, the NI sheep kill has been on the rise. The hogget kill was up by 25 per cent year on year, which is consistent with the general increase in numbers for the first quarter of 2012. This reflects a slight reduction in numbers of hoggets exported live to ROI for direct slaughter with more producers choosing to finish lambs in local plants. Figures from Bord Bia show that the NI hogget price has been slightly ahead of ROI levels in recent months and this certainly helps to explain the increased kill. Ewe and lamb slaughterings in NI increased by 30 per cent in March compared to the same four week period last year. In 2012 to date, the mature sheep kill was up by six per cent year-on-year.

Further Reading

- You can view the full report by clicking here.

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