The latest slaughter figures released by Defra for December indicate that prime cattle throughputs were lower than those in the corresponding month last year, at 156,650 head. This comparison has included appropriate adjustments to the 2015 data to account for the change in survey methodology introduced by Defra earlier this year.
At 82,150 head, steer throughputs are calculated to be down six per cent on the year. Heifer throughputs were back almost two per cent at 60,900 head while young bull slaughterings were calculated to be notably down on last year, back nine per cent at 13,600 head.
There was also another significant increase in the number of adult cattle coming forward to slaughter, particularly cows. This kept the lid on the cow trade through the month, although prices would normally be expected to ease towards the end of the year anyway. Throughputs were calculated to be up seven per cent on the year, at 56,900 head. Given the time of the year and the favourable export situation it may well have again encouraged more producers into marketing their cows.
Following the consistent trend for most of last year, carcase weights for all types of cattle were lower again in December. Combined with lower prime cattle throughputs, this had an impact on production levels, despite higher cow throughputs. At 72,400 tonnes, beef and veal production was calculated to be two per cent, or 1,300 tonnes, lower than the adjusted year-earlier volumes. Once Christmas procurement had passed prime cattle prices remained relatively flat as the year came to a close. Hence the lower production, no doubt, contributed to the fairly balanced prime market during the month. However, on average, prices were still just ahead of the same period at the end of 2015.
For the year as a whole, prime cattle slaughterings totalled 1.97 million head. This represents an increase of two per cent on 2015 throughputs. Adult cattle throughputs for the year as a whole were again very strong, up 10 per cent to 680,000 head. Given the increased availability, overall production in the year grew. However, at 912,000 tonnes it was up by just three per cent, or 28,000 tonnes, on last year. Most of the increase can be attributed to an increase in product derived from cows rather than prime cattle. Production from steers, heifers and young bulls increased one per cent on 2015 levels whilst that from adult cattle was up nine per cent.