According to the Livestock and Meat Commission’s Ian Stevenson, there is now “very clear” evidence to show that beef farmers in Northern Ireland recognise the need to slaughter cattle at an earlier age.
For 2021, the average age of bullocks, young bulls and heifers slaughtered in Northern Ireland, which were price reported during the last quarter of the year, were: 25.7, 25.7 and 16.4 months.
The equivalent figures for 2019 were: 26.2, 26.0 and 16.3 months.
Stevenson believes that changes of this nature will act to reduce the carbon footprint of the industry as a whole.
He said that other trends that can be discerned from the most recent slaughter data now available include the increasing proportion of young bulls within NI’s overall kill.
“Entire animals will convert feed more efficiently. The beneficial impact of this process on the carbon footprint of the beef industry as a whole is obvious.”
According to the LMC, during December 2021, a total of 2,914 young bulls were slaughtered in NI. The equivalent figure for December 2020 was 2,482, representing a year-on-year increase of 17%.
He said that the figures for the year, as a whole, confirm that Northern Ireland’s young bull throughput was up by 6% in 2021 compared to the previous twelve months.
He believes that “this trend indicates that farmers here are becoming more confident in their ability to manage young bulls and take them through to final slaughter”.
“The average age at slaughter for young bulls here now stands at 16.4 months. I believe there is scope to bring this figure down further during the period ahead.”
The most recent slaughter-related statistics also confirm the growing number of Aberdeen-Angus-sired stock within Northern Ireland’s total beef throughput.
During the last quarter of last year, Angus cattle made up 23% of the prime kill.
For the corresponding period in 2019, the equivalent figure was 20%.
The LMC added that the numbers of Hereford-bred cattle coming through the system have remained at a “steady” 7-8% throughout this period.
“Some forecasters had previously predicted that Angus-bred cattle numbers would start to plateau-off,” said Stevenson.
“However, the opposite has turned out to be the case. This is a very obvious market trend that has been driven by consumer demand.”
“The Hereford share of our prime kill is not insignificant. And again, this is further evidence of the growing demand for beef from traditional breeds.”