The total cattle killed at NI meat plants continues to surge, with the number processed from the start of the year to the week ending 21 May 2022 the highest on record in NI.
Over this period, 196,756 cattle have been slaughtered locally, up 16% on the equivalent figure from 2021 and nearly 20,000 (11%) above the five year average of 176,925.
The data published by DAERA goes back to 2001, and shows that the second highest kill over this time was in 2010 when, up to the third week of May, a total of 181,000 head were slaughtered. The 2022 figure is 9% ahead of that, which highlights the extent to which the kill this year stands out from previous years.
With high costs forcing farmers to look at culling out under-performing suckler and dairy cows, it is no surprise that the total kill is being driven by cull cows.
If costs remain high and breeding herds continue to cull hard, the data suggest that NI will end up with a much smaller cattle herd
Record numbers have been processed this year, with the total of 43,162 a 22% increase on the equivalent figure from 2021. However, the prime cattle kill is also significantly up, and is running nearly 15% ahead of 2021.
The steer kill is up 13% (to 73,843), the heifer kill up 14% (to 60,495), while there has been a 24% increase in young bull slaughterings (to 14,526).
Cattle supply forecasts for 2022 did point to a small increase in the prime kill, but given the numbers now through the system, it suggests availability will be tight later in the year.
Longer term, if costs remain high and breeding herds continue to cull hard, the data suggest that NI will end up with a much smaller cattle herd.