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A look at kill numbers in the beef outlook

Friday, 6 March 2020

By Duncan Wyatt

It’s been a few months since we released our outlook for beef production in the UK. Let’s now have a look at the first couple of months to see how it’s faring.

A strong January kill means that slaughter of prime animals has run marginally ahead of the forecast, since it was released in November. Overall though, the figures are not too far away. There was a year on year fall in the number of cattle on the ground in January, data for which was made available three weeks ago. With this in mind, we continue to expect prime slaughter to fall to 1.96m head, which would be 2% lower than the 2019 kill of 2.01m.

Prime carcase weights in the last quarter of 2019 came in as expected at 345kg although weights in January increased to 348kg, heavier than forecast.

By themselves, the prime kill numbers don’t yet suggest a need to change the prime kill forecast, however the cow kill numbers might. The cow kill however has been higher than expected. In November, we forecast the 2020 total to come in at 615,000 head, somewhat lower than 2019’s total of 668,000 head. It’s still early days, but this is definitely one to watch and could warrant a downward revision of the forecast. Cow weights in the last quarter of 2019 were marginally (3kg) lighter than forecast, at 302kg. However cows too, have been heavier than expected in January, at 311kg.

If the cow kill remains at elevated levels, this would either signify a larger than expected contraction in the breeding herd, or an even lower prime kill than expected, as more replacements would be required.

Duncan Wyatt

Lead Analyst - Red Meat

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