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AHDB Pig Market Weekly

23 April 2012

AHDB UK Market Survey - 20 April 2012AHDB UK Market Survey - 20 April 2012

UK red meat and offal production in the first three months of 2012 totalled 525,000 tonnes, four per cent less than in the corresponding period in 2011.


Beef and veal production in the first three months amounted to 223,000 tonnes, a decrease of over eight per cent on year earlier levels. This decline was driven by lower prime cattle slaughterings and a considerable decline in cull cow throughputs, as carcase weights were broadly similar to those in the first three months of 2011.

Prime cattle slaughterings were nine per cent lower year on year at 501,000 head, largely driven by a 20 per cent decline in young bull slaughterings. However, steer throughputs were six per cent lower on the year, while heifer throughputs were down eight per cent. At just over 141,000 head cull cow slaughterings were nine per cent lower than in the corresponding period a year ago. Last year producers were taking advantage of firm market prices and rationalising their herds in the face of high input costs.

As a result of reduced throughputs of lambs and adult sheep mutton and lamb production in the first quarter of 2012 declined two per cent on the year to 62,600 tonnes. Ewe and ram throughputs were 11 per cent lower on the year at 443,000 head with lamb throughputs down three per cent at 2.58 million head. The better seasonal conditions and increased feed availability over the winter has resulted in carcase weights increasing considerably and therefore offsetting the decline in throughputs to some extent.

Pig meat production in the January to March period totalled 206,000 tonnes, two per cent higher than during the first quarter of 2011. Clean pig throughputs were up two per cent on the year to 2.48 million head while sow slaughterings were five per cent higher than AHDB estimates for the corresponding period last year at 65,000 head. Clean pig carcase weights in the period were lower year on year, as producers finished slaughter pigs to lower weights in an attempt to offset high feed costs.

Cattle market trends


In week ended 14 April the overall prime cattle deadweight average price strengthened almost a penny on the week to 339.6p per kg. The average price of all categories of cattle increased on the week with the price of R4L steers up a penny to 347.7p per kg while heifers were marginally dearer at 345.5p per kg.

Tight supplies and firm demand for beef by exporters continued to result in upwards pressure on cow prices. In week ended 14 April the -04L cow price increased by five pence on the week to average 281.1p per kg.

In the week ended 18 April the prime cattle average price at GB auction markets was broadly level on the week. The average steer price fell a penny to 188.8p per kg, while the heifer price levelled on the week at 168.5p per kg.

Carcase quality results

Data from a sample of prime cattle slaughtered in GB last year shows that 49 per cent of carcases met the ‘R4L or better’ target market specification, the same as in 2010. There was a notable improvement in young bull classifications where the number hitting this target increased five pergentage points on the year to 53 per cent. This is likely to be as a result of the reduction in the number of dairy-bred bull slaughterings. The conformation quality of heifer carcases improved slightly year on year, to 64 per cent. The proportion of steer carcase classifications meeting the target fell back slightly to 56 per cent, likely to be a consequence of earlier finishing as producers attempted to minimise feed costs, or were overly keen to benefit from high prices.

Regional slaughterings

Following the trend so far in 2012, at 157,000 head, UK prime cattle slaughterings in March were significantly lower than in the same month of 2011. Slaughterings of all categories of cattle in all regions of the UK were back on the year with throughputs of steers and heifers back six and seven per cent respectively and young bull throughputs down by a fifth. Cull cow slaughtering also continued to be lower on the year, at 39,000 head they were down eight per cent. In addition, adult bull throughputs were over a quarter lower on the year.

Beef and veal production totalled 68,300 tonnes, eight per cent lower than in March 2011. Production from prime cattle was back eight per cent on the year while from cows and adult bulls was 18 per cent lower.

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