French beef production expected to decline in 2023

Dairy herds also in decline
calendar icon 24 January 2023
clock icon 3 minute read

French beef production is expected to fall in 2023 for the third consecutive year, according to a press release the Institut de L'Elevage IDELE. The reduction in dairy and suckler herds over the past 6 1/2 years is in fact limiting the availability of all categories of cattle. Consumption virtually stable at -0.5% would lead to a continued rebound in imports. Exports of weanlings will fall in the wake of suckler herds.

After a drop of nearly -5% in 2022, net production of finished cattle should fall further in 2023 to 1.337 million tonnes of carcass equivalent (-1.6%/2022). The tonnages of females would drop by -13,000 dw, those of uncastrated males by -3,000 dw, those of oxen by -1,000 dw and those of veal calves by -4,000 dw. Exports of weanlings should fall further (-3%) after a very marked fall in 2022.

Decline in female production

After a sharp decline in 2022 (-3.7% /2021), female slaughter should continue to fall in 2023 (-1.7%). Dairy reforms will again be significantly reduced. Nursing reforms could be almost stable due to continued decapitalization. But carcass weights should continue to decline in the two herds, according to the press release.

Suckler cow herd decline, which began in the summer of 2016, accelerated further in 2022. The annual rate fell from -2.8% at the end of 2021 to -3.0% at the end of 2022, as entries of first calves were not sufficient enough to replace culled cows. This decline could continue in 2023, following the high rate recorded in 2022. 

With the number of replacement heifers almost stable, cow culls should be comparable to 2022. But average weights could continue to decline (-0.7%). According to the report, the proportion of heavy breeds continues to decline in the herd. 

Furthermore, finishing the cows well will remain costly due to the price of feed and the price differential between conformations will hardly be an incentive for breeders.

Butcher heifers could be a little more numerous (+0.3%) in connection with the development of contractualization, and their average weight would be stable, as in recent years.

Dairy herds in decline

The dairy cow herd fell sharply in 2022, at an annual rate falling from -1.8% at the end of 2021 to -2.3% at the end of 2022. The numbers will continue to fall in 2023 due to restructuring still in progress, but a little less quickly (-2.0%) thanks to an attractive milk price for producers. This slowdown in the decline will cause cows to be retained on farms, especially since there are few replacement heifers ready to go into production in 2023. Culls of dairy cows should therefore decline significantly (-4.3% /2022). The high cost of finishing will lead to further erosion of their average weight. The tonnages of dairy cows slaughtered would then fall by -4.5%/2022.

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