Sheep meat and beef production levels increase

During October, production of both sheep meat and beef increased month-on-month, according to the latest data from Defra. Beef and veal production totalled 77.9 thousand tonnes in October.

Production of sheep meat during October stood at 24.7 thousand tonnes, a 7% (1.6 thousand tonnes) increase month on month, according to the latest data from Defra. When compared to the same month last year however, production fell by 5% (1.2 thousand tonnes). Production in the year-to-date totals 233.2 thousand tonnes, a similar level to the same period last year.

UK sheep meat production

Slaughterings of clean sheep during October rose 8% (84.7 thousand head) on the previous monthly, standing at 1,120.4 thousand head. Compared to the same month last year, clean sheep slaughterings recorded a 4% (45 thousand head) decline. Cull ewe and ram slaughterings totalled 127.6 thousand head, a 12% (17.9 thousand head) fall compared to the same month last year. Cull slaughter numbers have trended lower throughout 2017 compared to 2016 which is potentially due to the four year seasonal pattern observed in cull ewe numbers. Following the pattern this year would be expected to be a low year with next year forecast to record significant year-on-year rises.

Production of beef and veal in October totalled 77.9 thousand tonnes, 14% (9.3 thousand tonnes) more than the previous month although this was 1% less than the same month last year. Beef and veal production in the year-to-date totals 731.3 thousand tonnes, a 1% (10.7 thousand tonnes) decline on the same period last year.

While most average dressed carcase weights remained firm on last month, average dressed carcase weights for calves recorded an unusual increase of 31% (16.9kg) month-on-month, to 71.1kg. Compared to the same month last year this was a rise of 22% (12.8kg). Prime cattle and adult cow average dressed carcase weights all remained firm both on the month and on the year, at 345.8kg and 301.7kg respectively.

UK beef and veal production

Prime cattle slaughterings were at a similar level to those in October 2016 at 167.6 thousand head. Compared to the previous month though, this is an 11% (17 thousand head) increase. Cow slaughterings stood at 60.5 thousand head, a 23% (11.1 thousand head) increase month-on-month. September slaughterings were lower than perhaps could be expected for both prime and adult cattle rather than October lying outside the expected range. Previously industry reports had suggested lower adult cattle slaughterings might be attributed to the improving conditions for the dairy industry, although October recorded a large increase in adult slaughterings; the year-to-date figures show that this year is still behind year earlier levels. While some of those adult cattle coming forwards in October could be a timing delay, improved conditions in the dairy industry do appear to still be putting downwards pressure on adult slaughterings.

Rebecca Oborne AHDB