Following an increase in cattle numbers in 2010, the results of the December 2011 census indicated a renewed decline.
The number of cattle in the UK totalled 9.7 million head, down two per cent on the year, largely due to fewer male cattle aged less than two-years-old.
The beef herd stabilised in June 2011, but this was a temporary position and with increased slaughterings for both heifers and cows, the December 2011 census showed that the suckler herd had declined one per cent year on year.
Beef heifer replacements were also lower.
As a result, the suckler herd is forecast to decline in 2012 and 2013.
The dairy breeding herd experienced a decline of over two per cent in the December census.
In 2012 and 2013, while the dairy herd is currently forecast to stabilise, recent developments in the milk market may result in some contraction.
In 2011 calf registrations were marginally higher on the year.
However, the relatively high cereal prices for most of 2011 impacted on demand and therefore registered male dairy calf births were lower in the year as a whole compared with 2010.
Some respite in cereal prices, and subsequent firm demand for dairy bull calves contributed to increased calf registrations late in 2011 and in the early part of 2012.
Prime cattle slaughterings in 2011 were 1% higher than in 2010 at 2,109,000 head. A decline of dairy bulls resulted in the expected fall in prime cattle supplies for slaughter in the final quarter of 2011.
Prime cattle supplies in the first half of 2012 were significantly back on the year and forecast to remain lower in the year as a whole at 2,002,000 head before levelling in 2013 at 2,039,000 head.
Cow and adult bull slaughterings are expected to fall by around seven per cent from 2011 levels to 598,000 head and drop slightly further in 2013 to 575,000 head.
As a result of lower domestic production, exports in the year to date are lower and are forecast to be below 2011 levels for the year as a whole.
They are, however, expected 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.
Supplies available for consumption are forecast to be broadly stable in 2012 and be marginally lower in 2013.
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