Carcase weights for animals slaughtered so far in 2023 have dropped compared to last year.

Bord Bia data shows that bullock carcase weights dropped by 4kg to 347kg for the first nine months of the year. Heifer carcase weights are back by 2kg to 311kg, while cows are back 4kg from a 303kg average carcase weight in 2022 to an average of 298kg in 2023.

Young bulls are the only category that saw an increase in weight this year, rising by 3kg to 379kg. If you compare carcase weights this year with 2020 weights, bullocks are back 13kg, heifers are back 9kg, cows are back by a massive 18kg and young bulls are back by 5kg.

The reduced weights in 2023 are being put down to a difficult grazing year, with many finishers reporting that cattle are coming in off grass a lot lighter compared with other years.

Reduced suckler cow numbers, more dairy beef animals being killed and a push towards younger slaughter ages are also putting downward pressure on carcase weights.

A number of processors have expressed concern in recent months over processing cattle under 240kg carcase weight, citing issues getting into premium markets with the lighter carcases.

Carcase grading has also seen a drop, with the number of bullocks grading R down from 30% in 2021 to 25% in 2023. The percentage of heifers grading R is down to 36% in 2023 from 43% in 2021. P grading cows accounted for 63% of cows processed in the first six months of 2023.

The beef trade remains in a steady position this week, with bullocks generally being bought at a €4.60/kg base price, while heifers are working off a €4.65/kg base price. Cows are also firm, with R grading animals being quoted at €4.20/kg to €4.40/kg in some factories.