September 25, 2013


Decline in breeding herd set to affect UK beef prices



A drop in the cattle breeding herd in UK is likely to have long term positive implications on its beef prices.


The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) survey published this week revealed the beef breeding herd in England was back 3% on-year to June. Figures also highlighted numbers had fallen 40,000 in the past two years.


Debbie Butcher, senior analyst at Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board/ English Beef and Lamb Executive (AHDB/EBLEX), said it was not in 'any doubt' a smaller breeding herd would affect beef prices in the long term.


She said, "With a lower breeding herd and increasing demand globally, I do not think in the broad picture it is in any doubt." But the poor spring of earlier this year meant the decline could have been even worse, Butcher added.


She also said that the production cycle is three years but beef numbers are declining and have done over time and if that continues without any more expectations then the supply is not going to change, but the decline of the breeding herd in England was in line with the rest of the world.


Over the past year, the declining numbers come despite little change in the total number of cattle and calves in England, which have remained around the 5.4 million mark. In the short term an increase in the number of cattle aged between one and two years old could increase supplies for slaughter. But deadweight prices have risen on the week and EBLEX said the surge had been caused as supplies were not particularly 'abundant'.


The survey showed the English sheep flock was up 2% on-year and the breeding flock had grown almost 4% to 6.49 million. EBLEX said live-weight prices had followed the expected trend last week, falling £0.019 (US$0.03) per kilogramme (kg) to £1.63/kg (US$2.61). The body also reported the trade for breeding stock in 2013 had eased on the year, with producers still feeling the effects of the 'costly winter'.