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Lower throughputs weigh on April beef production

Thursday, 14 May 2020

By Hannah Clarke

The latest Defra statistics reveal that UK beef and veal production in April 2020 fell 3% on the year to 68,800 tonnes, mostly due to a fall in slaughter numbers.

Despite this, production for the year to date (Jan-Apr) is up 2% on the year at 304,600 tonnes. This is the highest production for the period in four years.


Total prime slaughter during April fell by 3% (-5,200 head) on the year to total 156,900 head, mostly driven by a 5% decrease in steer throughputs. Heifer slaughter remained largely unchanged versus April 2019 (+100 head). Cow throughput also fell by 3% (-1,400 head) to total 43,800 head for the month.

April saw significant impacts on the beef industry due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The country was under lockdown measures for the whole month, and supply chains were affected by social distancing, staff absenteeism and carcase value imbalance. Consequently, cattle prices fell steeply during the month. Lower slaughter could have resulted from a mix of things, supply chain issues at abattoirs and auction markets, producers holding onto stock in the wake of uncertainty, and/or producers being busy on-farm with calving and spring planting.

Actual prime and cow slaughter numbers are behind where we had forecast them to be for April, by 3,900 head and 1,000 head respectively. However, our forecasts were produced in November, prior to COVID-19 impacts.

Carcase weights

Average prime carcase weights during April remained largely unchanged on the year at 346kg/head, while cow carcase weights were 2% heavier (+5.4kg), averaging 309kg/head. Weights have likely been supported by better quality forage made last season, and milder conditions will have helped animals keep condition.

Hannah Clarke

Analyst - Livestock

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