Beef slaughter weights down across the board
Department figures reveal impact of dairy expansion and summer drought on the national kill
Average slaughter weights for most cattle are well back this year compared to 2017, confirming the growing impact of increased dairy numbers on the beef sector.
Department of Agriculture figures seen by this paper show that average slaughter weights for the first 11 months of 2018 were lower than the previous year for bullocks, heifers, cows and aged bulls, with only young bulls seeing an increase.
Bullock weights at slaughter have fallen this year by 4.4kg/hd to an average of 348.6kg/hd. Heifer weights are back on average to 308.7kg, a decline of 2.2kg/hd. The average slaughter weight of cull cows dropped 7.7kg to 304.4kg.
Aged bulls, which as a category include stock bulls and any young bulls who went over 24 months, fell 16.3kg to average 433.2kg in 2018. While significant, this category accounts for just 2.5pc of the overall kill.
Young bulls were the only category to buck the downward trend, with the average slaughter weight rising by 3.7pc to 365.2kg.
The higher young bull weights could be due to the shortage of grass this summer as a result of the drought, with finishers forced to feed more meals as a consequence.
This contention is supported by the increased percentage of animals that graded U and E so far this year, which were up 2.6pc and accounted for more than 40pc of the total young bull kill.
In contrast to the improved performance of young bulls, a greater proportion of steers, heifers and cows graded P this year.