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Increased Beef Kill In 2010

03 February 2011

NORTHERN IRELAND - In 2010 the NI red meat industry slightly increased cattle slaughterings while there was a reduction in the number of sheep presented for slaughter.

By the end of 2010, total cattle slaughterings were three per cent higher than previous year levels, while the sheep kill was 37 per cent lower.

The year-on-year increases in cattle slaughterings was a constant feature of the market throughout the first nine months of 2010, with greater slaughterings of bulls one of the key drivers of the increase in production. Young bull slaughterings (bulls under 24 mths) increased by 39 per cent (over 21,000 head) in 2010 compared to the equivalent figure for 2009. There was also a substantial increase in slaughterings of mature bulls (over 24 mths) in 2010, with numbers doubling to 12,000 head. It is likely that the vast majority of these were bulls that were reared for slaughter but were retained beyond 24 months, with breeding bulls only accounting for a small proportion of these animals.

The increases in young bull slaughterings reflects the fact that more cattle have been kept entire and in some respects this may have led to the reduced steer slaughterings in 2010, with more cattle slaughtered earlier as bulls, rather than later as steers. Greater bull slaughterings is also a reflection of the increased availability of dairy-sired male cattle due to reduced calf exports to the continent in 2008 and 2009.

The increased bull slaughterings last year compensated for the reduced numbers of steers, heifers and cows in the slaughter mix. In 2010, the steer kill was down three per cent on previous year levels, while the heifer kill was down by two per cent.

However, it is worth noting that this decline was sharper in the fourth quarter and as Table 1 shows, in December, steer and heifer numbers were down by five and nine per cent respectively compared to December 2009 levels. These changes meant that beef production in Northern Ireland was higher in 2010. With average carcase weight slightly heavier than in 2009, total beef production was up by 3.5 per cent (+5,100 tonnes) off the back of the increase in slaughterings. 2010 has been a turbulent year for the Northern Irish sheep industry. With FoyleMeats shutting down its lamb operation in 2010 and more sheep and lambs being exported to ROI, the NIsheep kill is substantially lower than 2009 levels. The lamb kill is down by 40 per cent, while the ewe and ram kill was down by 17 per cent compared to the previous year.

This is an overall decline of almost 218,000 head and the impact of this on NI sheepmeat output has been severe. The average carcase weight of sheep has been slightly higher in 2010, but nonetheless sheepmeat production is 36 per cent lower than 2009 levels (-4,600 tonnes).

Further Reading

- You can view the full report by clicking here.

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