Fall in beef production forecast for 2012

According to a cattle forecast from the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) and Eblex, UK cattle production this year will be below 2011 levels.

Following an increase in cattle numbers in 2012, the results of the December 2011 census showed a renewed decline. The number of cattle in the UK totalled 9.7m head, which Eblex said was down 2% on the year and was largely due to fewer male cattle aged less than two years old.

The forecast also highlighted the stabilisation of the herd in June 2011, but pointed out that it was a temporary increase in slaughterings for both heifers and cows that saw the herd decline by 1% year-on-year. Beef heifer replacements were also lower and, as a result, the suckler herd has been forecast to decline this year and into 2013. Eblex has also released figures showing a decline of the dairy breeding herd of more than 2%.

Calf registrations in 2011 were marginally higher on the year, but high prices of cereal for most of 2011 affected demand, which meant registered male dairy calf births were lower in the year as a whole, said Eblex.

Prime cattle slaughterings in 2011 were 1% higher than in 2012 at 2,109,000 head and a decline of dairy bulls resulted in the expected fall in prime cattle supplies for slaughter in the final quarter of 2011. Supplies of prime cattle in H1 of 2012 were lower on the year and forecast to stay low in the year as a whole, at 2,002,000 head, before levelling in 2013 at 2,039,000 head. Cow and bull slaughterings are expected to fall by around 7% on 2011 levels to 598,000 head and will drop slightly further in 2013 to 575,000 head.

Lower domestic production, Eblex said, has meant exports for the year to date are lower and forecast to be below 2011 levels for the year as a whole, but have been predicted to “rebound” in 2013.

“The ongoing demand for cow beef is likely to prevail, although this could be affected by any weakening of the euro against sterling and the ongoing economic crisis in the eurozone,” said Eblex. “Supplies available for consumption are forecast to be broadly stable in 2012 and marginally lower in 2013.”

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