Industry Forecasts Low Veal and Beef Output

UK - Beef and lamb levy board EBLEX expects beef and veal supplies to remain tight due to breeding herd declines impacting on farm output in the coming 18 months.
calendar icon 1 August 2013
clock icon 2 minute read

Calf registrations in the first five months of 2013 were significantly back on the year, with non-dairy calf registrations over 70,000 head lower due to producers’ concerns about high production costs against the backdrop of an uncertain economic outlook, say EBLEX analysts.

The consequence of this will undoubtedly be a reduction in the production of quality beef and, even if producers begin to rebuild herds now, any turnaround in production is unlikely before 2016.

For 2013 as a whole, the forecast for production from prime cattle to be lower is little changed from earlier positions.


The slight uplift in throughputs will be more than offset by lower finished weights, as a result of the poor seasonal conditions. Production of beef from cows and adult bulls is also forecast to be behind last year, as lower weights are expected to compound lower throughputs.

Debbie Butcher said that, looking ahead to 2014, normalising weights will be offset by reduced throughput, therefore production is expected to change very little.  

"Exports this year and next will largely be influenced by available supply," said Mrs Butcher. "In volume terms, 2013 is forecast to be similar to last year and will amount to a broadly unchanged percentage share of production."

"Firm demand for manufacturing beef in the wake of the horse meat issue is likely to continue to support export prospects, as consumers on the Continent continue to trade down to cuts such as mince and burgers.

"Imports in 2013 are expected to be down on the year, largely due to subdued demand for processed product on the home market following the horse meat revelations. Some slight recovery is expected next year as both fresh/frozen and processed imports are expected to be higher. The upturn in production in Ireland also suggests scope for increased trade with the UK for this year and next."

With no increase in production and a broadly level trade position, EBLEX analysts see supplies available for domestic consumption being modestly lower in 2013 than in the previous year. Only a small increase in available supply is expected in 2014, largely on the back of an increase in imports.

With strong consumer confidence in British beef and support for native bred cattle strengthening, the outlook for returns to producers is robust. However, a shift towards expanding the herd ultimately depends on the prospect of positive farmgate margins, which will encourage producers to invest in their businesses.

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