Another good year expected for beef sales
Domestic prime beef and cull cow slaughterings are expected to fall back again after the rise of the past two years.
Imports are likely to remain well below 2010 levels and continental demand continues to fuel exports. Hence the latest English Beef & Lamb Executive annual market outlook foresees the notably firm beef market of 2011 continuing through this year.
Following an increase in 2010, final results from the most recent June census show a fall of around two per cent in UK cattle numbers on the previous year, the bulk of this being in animals less than two years old.
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The census figures indicate the national beef breeding herd stabilised over the past year.
But an apparent rise in slaughterings of both heifers and cows suggests this is likely to be a temporary position.
Eblex senior market analyst, Debbie Butcher, said: "Despite recent store cattle returns improving the sector's optimism, high feed costs, a shift in the balance of cow and sheep numbers and competition from arable enterprises means a decline in the suckler herd is anticipated in 2011 when final figures are confirmed, with numbers returning to 2009 levels by the end of this year.
"Equally, the dairy herd is forecast to have fallen by around 1.5 per cent in 2011 and we expect to see a similar reduction in 2012, further limiting national supplies.
"Although calf registrations were marginally higher in 2011 than the previous year, high cereal prices had a clear impact on demand, with registered purebred dairy bull calf births lower year-on-year."
Mrs Butcher added that any rises in cereal prices were considered likely to dampen dairy bull calf demand despite the attractiveness of the current finished market.
As well as a continued tightness in domestic beef supplies, imports were expected to continue to remain below previous years in 2012, while firm demand from continental Europe was forecast to result in a second year of relatively high exports.
Strong export demand was predicted for manufacturing beef, in particular, helping to support the cull cow trade alongside UK prime beef markets, despite any fall off in domestic consumption as a result of further pressures on household budgets.