May 24, 2021

Ireland's cattle slaughter drops 6.1% in March 2021


Ireland's March cattle slaughter, including cows and calves, had fell back by 6.1% on the same month of 2020, according to Central Statistics Office data.


Overall, Irish cattle slaughter in the first quarter fell by 13.6% year-on-year to a total of 434,100 head.


The reduced slaughter numbers are not unexpected, with higher slaughter throughputs last autumn currently tightening the supply of cattle available, the United Kingdom's Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) said.


Industry estimates forecast a 3% fewer cattle to be slaughtered (50,000 head) in 2021. This tighter supply may be helping to support prices in Ireland, as well as limiting the volume of beef available for export.


Global Irish beef exports during Q1 2021 were down 22% year on year, totaling 105,400 tonnes. Less beef was exported to Great Britain with export volumes for the quarter back 38%, a reduction of 18,200 tonnes compared to the same period last year. Irish beef exports initially dropped back in January following the UK's withdrawal from the European Union, and have since been steadily recovering month on month.


Despite declining volumes, the value of Irish exports has not dropped as much, with high prices helping to make up for some of the reductions in volumes. Total Irish exports during Q1 totalled £463 million (US$564.4 million), an annual decrease of only 7%.


Irish cattle prices have been on the rise in recent months. For the week ending May 8, Irish R3 steers averaged €4.11/kg (US$5.01) deadweight, up €0.63 (US$0.77) on the same week last year. Looking at global prices, Irish prices have been narrowing the discount to prices here.


Irish prices remain above current prices in New Zealand and Brazil but below those in Australia.