Heavier carcase weights support UK beef production in January

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In January 2020, UK slaughter of prime cattle totalled 170,200 head, only marginally less (-500 head) than the same month in the previous year, according to the latest data from Defra.

A decrease in prime slaughter was recorded in England and Wales. Meanwhile, Northern Ireland slaughter was up considerably on the year, which compensated somewhat for the recorded decline in England and Wales. Processors may still be working their way through the ‘backlog’ of cattle as a result of the strikes last year.

England and Wales ↓1% to 107,000 head
Scotland → at 33,000 head
Northern Ireland ↑8% to 30,000 head

Adult cattle
Slaughter of adult cattle declined by 1% on the year in January, totalling almost 60,000 head. While slaughter of adult bulls remained in line with last year, cow slaughter recorded a 1% decline (800 head), totalling 58,600 head.

Carcase weights
Prime carcase weights in January averaged 348.1kg/head, 3.7kg (1.1%) heavier than in the previous year. All categories of prime animals recorded heavier average carcase weights, with heifers and steers weighing 4.7kg (1.4%) and 2.6kg (0.7%) heavier than the previous year respectively.

Carcase weights of cull cows were also heavier when compared to last year. Carcase weights averaged 311.3 kg/head, 5.2kg (1.7%) more than last year.

In January, UK production of beef and veal reached 78,800 tonnes, 0.7% more (550 tonnes) than in the same month last year. Although slaughter levels were lower overall, the heavier carcase weights were able to compensate somewhat.


Felicity Rusk


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