Meat & Livestock News

Beef Production in GB Set to Increase, Despite Decline in Youngstock Numbers

Recent findings from the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS) suggest an uptick in the number of prime cattle ready for beef production in Great Britain (GB) compared to the previous year. As of 1 July 2023, the total count of the GB cattle herd stood at 7.9 million head, representing a 0.9% dip from the year before.

The segment of females over thirty months witnessed a 2.4% drop, primarily due to a shrinkage in the beef herd. Conversely, cattle earmarked for beef production, encompassing beef males, beef females, and dairy males aged 12-30 months, saw a 1.8% rise year-on-year. 

This increase was significantly driven by older beef males in the 18-30 month age bracket.

Yet, the group of cattle under 12 months persisted in its yearly decline, a pattern noted since October 2022, largely attributed to dwindling numbers of dairy males. For the first instance since 2019, the tally of beef males and females under 12 months also saw a reduction, albeit a minor one at 0.3%. 

The most pronounced drop was among the under-6-month age category, aligning with fewer calf registrations this year, predominantly in the beef herd.

Industry experts are pondering if the decrease in cow numbers is starting to outpace the adoption of beef semen in the dairy sector or if the dairy segment has hit its maximum beef calf output. 

The numbers of dairy and beef cows have been on a downward trajectory for multiple years, with the rate of decline in the suckler herd becoming more pronounced.

Looking ahead at the cattle supply, the augmented count of 12-30 month-old cattle as of 1 July hints at an escalation in beef production for the remainder of the year. While an increase in prime cattle slaughter was anticipated for the third and fourth quarters, the last quarter might experience a year-on-year drop. 

Fresh data from the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) reveals that this year’s prime cattle slaughter has been trailing behind 2022’s figures. 

Nonetheless, AHDB’s projections for September suggest a possible surge in weekly slaughter rates. Still, it’s unclear if it will rival the peaks of the previous year. The trajectory of cattle prices in the forthcoming chillier months will be largely influenced by the equilibrium between supply and consumer demand.