Outlook: sheep and cattle round-up

Reductions in carbon will help boost profitability, delegates to the Outlook 2011 conference were told.

Speaking in the cattle and sheep break-out session, Chris Lloyd, industry development manager for Eblex, highlighted the link between efficiency and environmental performance, along with the benefits.

“For every 5kg reduction in carbon, producers can add 50p/kg on their gross margin,” he told delegates.

The gap in performance on carbon between the best performers and worst was significant, and that provided great hope that industry could achieve the 11% reduction by 2020 set by government targets.

“We need to work on those producers with higher footprints, and there’s hope we will hit the targets, because we can see what worked with the producers with lower footprints.”

He told the audience that industry needed to reduce carbon output by 1kg for every 1kg of meat by 2020.

Meanwhile, Mark Topliffe, senior analyst with AHDB Market Intelligence, said rocketing feed costs had cooled off the recent increases in cattle weight at slaughter, with this year seeing slight declines. There were also indications that producers were sending unproductive animals to slaughter, he added.

Imports of beef had also fallen, from an increase of 3% last year, to a decline of 5% in the year to date. Retail sales of beef had also fallen 5% over the same period, but Topliffe said they expected an upswing with Easter figures.

He added that profitability of the suckler herd was still questionable and it was likely to see a decline this year, but only down the same levels as 2009.

Covering the sheep sector, Stuart Ashworth, head of economic services with Quality Meat Scotland, urged the UK to aim for Mongolian levels of sheepmeat consumption – 40kg per head per year, compared with the UK’s 6kg.

He said there were early signs that the sheep numbers were heading out of its downward trend, and producers were gaining confidence, but said it remained fragile.

The major area of growth for the past five years had been driven by lower-value lamb cuts, but Ashworth warned that, with rising prices making the headlines, consumers may not be prepared to continue to pay to eat lamb.

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