AHDB points to steady recovery for cattle

For the cattle sector, 2014 was a rollercoaster year, with prices at one point falling back to the same levels of 2012, the beef and lamb session at the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board’s (AHDB) Outlook Conference were told.

Despite that rollercoaster situation, there has been a slow and steady recovery, said Debbie Butcher, senior analyst with AHDB Market Intelligence. “[The sector] started 2015 with good stability, prices are holding up quite well and all the indicators point to a slow, steady recovery.”

She said slaughter numbers had risen slightly, and the average weight was also up, so the industry was producing more beef, around 4% higher at 31,000t. Cow slaughter was lower, but she said the drop was not as great as had been expected.

Calf registrations was also up during 2014, said Butcher, but she played the significance down: “We’ve seen registrations up by 50,000 head, but in the bigger picture of 2.6m cows being slaughtered, it’s not really a lot. It’s not going to have a big impact.

“In the short term, there are going to be fewer cattle on the ground, and prime cattle slaughtering will be lower this year, although there maybe a few more coming forward towards the back end of the year.”

She said Irish access to the US market was going to gain traction and might have an impact on Irish imports into the UK, with lower amounts hitting the market.

In the wider international markets, the impact of the Russian ban was disruptive but not catastrophic, Butcher said, but the production across the EU 15 would remain broadly flat, with any increased production in France offset by downturns in Ireland, the UK and Germany. More globally, production was also flat, with massive drops in Australia, while Brazilian increases would be absorbed into the Russian market.

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