Meat & Livestock News

Beef Market Update: BCMS Data Signals Future Supply Tightening


  • BCMS data indicates a potential increase in cattle available for slaughter in the first half of 2024 but suggests a reduction in supply by 2025.
  • A decrease in birth registrations in 2023, primarily due to a shrinking suckler herd, points to future supply constraints.
  • The overall cattle population in GB as of January 1, 2024, has decreased by 1.2% from the previous year.

The latest data from the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS) highlights a forthcoming shift in the Great Britain (GB) cattle supply landscape. As we delve into the numbers, a nuanced picture of the beef market’s future emerges, marked by short-term availability increases and longer-term supply reductions.

Short-term Supply Dynamics

As of January 1, 2024, GB’s cattle holdings numbered 7.67 million head, marking a decrease of 1.2% compared to the year prior.

Despite this overall reduction, the data reveals a slight uptick in the number of cattle aged between 12-30 months, particularly those within the 18-30 month bracket. This increase suggests that the first half of 2024 may witness a higher availability of cattle for slaughter, driven by a temporary boost in the number of older cattle.

Long-term Supply Concerns

Looking further ahead, the landscape shifts. The number of younger cattle, specifically those under 12 months, has seen a decline of 57,500 head year-on-year as of January 1, 2024. This drop, especially pronounced in the 6-12 month age group, signals tighter cattle numbers moving into 2025.

This trend is corroborated by a notable decrease in birth registrations throughout 2023, the most significant annual reduction since 2013, primarily attributed to the contracting suckler herd.

Market Implications

The contraction in the suckler herd has led to fewer calves entering the system, a trend that is set to impact cattle supply and, consequently, slaughter levels in the coming years. While dairy-beef calf registrations have seen an uptick, the decline in dairy bull registrations further accentuates the shift towards a tighter supply scenario.

As the beef market navigates these evolving dynamics, several factors, including sex, breed, production systems, and input costs, will influence the timing and extent of these supply changes.

However, the current data suggests that stakeholders should prepare for a notable reduction in finished cattle supply by 2025, underscoring the importance of strategic planning and market adaptation in the face of shifting supply landscapes.