Prime cattle prices continue to be driven by a tight supply of cattle in both the UK and Ireland, according to Stuart Ashworth, Quality Meat Scotland’s Head of Economics Services.
The latest slaughter information shows that during May Scottish abattoirs handled 6% fewer cattle than last year and estimates of auction market throughputs suggest that this level of reduction in supply has continued through June. In Ireland prime cattle slaughterings have been almost 20% lower than last year in May and June.
With Scottish prices some 12% higher than this time last year the demand for beef was clearly the stronger element in the current supply and demand equation, said Mr Ashworth stated.Slaughter numbers lower than calf registration
Looking towards late summer and early autumn, changes in cattle availability rather than demand is likely to become the bigger driver of prices. Scottish calf registration information showed an increase in 2010 over 2009 and a further increase in 2011 over 2010. However, slaughter numbers so far this year have been lower than the calf registrations suggest they should be, Mr Ashworth commented.
While the overall Scottish prime kill had fallen 9% over the first five months of the year, the biggest change had been in young bulls, which were down 30% followed by heifers down 10% while steer numbers had only fallen 6%. Young bull numbers reflected the decline in dairy bull calf registrations in 2010 and early 2011, however dairy bull calf registrations had started to increase in the second half of 2011, he said.Heifers slaughtering decline
The decline in heifer slaughterings, which has gathered pace during the year to stand at 13% during May, may hold out the prospect of increased breeding retentions and continued lower availability of heifers for slaughter, said Mr Ashworth.
Abattoirs in England and Wales have also seen a similar pattern of decline in prime stock numbers over the first five months of the year although the falls have not been quite as large as in Scotland. However, in contrast to Scotland, cow slaughterings have also declined.
One unanswered question, Mr Ashworth pointed out, is the extent to which the miserable summer weather has impacted on livestock growth rates at grass and delayed the arrival of these cattle to the market.
Source: Quality Meat Scotland