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2009 Irish Livestock Supplies Reviewed

15 February 2010

Total cattle disposals in 2009 were four per cent higher than previous year levels at just 1.9 million head, writes Peter Duggan, Strategic Information Services, Bord Bia.

This reflects a significant increase in live exports which more than offset a drop in export meat plant supplies.

The key trends in disposals during 2009 were as follows:

  • Exports meat plant supplies falling by four per cent.
  • Jump of 93 per cent in live cattle exports.

Prime cattle supplies at export meat plants fell by six per cent to 1.16 million head, reflecting a strong level of live exports into Northern Ireland during the year.

In terms of the different categories of cattle, steer supplies were 10 per cent below year earlier levels at 635,600 head. Supplies of heifers were more than two per cent lower at 405,500.

In contrast, young bull throughput was 10 per cent higher at 120,200 head.

This year, up to the week ending the 6 February, cattle supplies have risen by more than 20,000 head on the corresponding period last year.

The drop in live cattle exports in 2008 would suggest some increase in finished cattle availability in 2010.

However, the strength of live exports of weanlings and store cattle in 2009 is expected to impact strongly on finished cattle availability as the year progresses. Some uncertainty surrounds producer intentions in relation to cows with anecdotal reports suggesting increased cow disposals are likely in 2010.

Average prices across all categories of cattle eased in 2009, reflecting difficult trading conditions and lower consumption levels across Europe. Steer prices were almost 10 per cent lower at €2.87 kg dw excl. VAT with R3 heifer prices falling by nine per cent to €2.93 /kg dw excl. VAT. O3 cow prices were 12 per cent lower at €2.36 /kg excl. VAT.

Pigs and Pigmeat

Total pig disposals in the Republic of Ireland during 2009 declined by over four per cent to 2.9 million head. This decline reflects a fall of just six per cent in export meat plant throughput which was partly offset by a rise of six per cent in live exports of finished pigs to Northern Ireland.

This year, up to the week ending the 6th of February, pig supplies are back slightly on the corresponding period last year.

In Ireland, the return into production of herds destocked following the product recall in late 2008 is expected to boost pig supplies by 5,000 head per week by March 2010.

On an annual basis this is expected to boost finished pig supplies by around 10 per cent. Also, some additional units are expected to be in production in 2010, which would further boost finished pig supplies.

Irish pig prices fell by nine per cent in 2009 to €1.32/kg with prices struggling in particular from August onwards.

The weakness of sterling impacted strongly on trade to the UK during the year despite the fall in EU production, with weak demand on Continental and International markets evident.

Sheep and Sheepmeat

Total sheep disposals fell by more than five per cent in 2009 to 2.83 million head.

A fall of almost seven per cent in export meat supplies was the principal reason for the decline. A sharp increase in live exports to the Mediterranean region offset a slowdown in trade to Great Britain.

Lamb supplies at export meat plants were seven per cent lower at approximately 2.05 million head, reflecting a smaller carryover of hoggets in early 2009 due to strong lamb supplies in late 2008 and a smaller lamb crop.

This year, up to the week ending the 6 February, sheep supplies have fallen by in excess of 50,000 head on the corresponding period last year. It is anticipated that supplies should be in line with supplies from last year, since the strong prices towards the end of last year contributed to sheep being marketed earlier than usual.

A further decline in Irish sheep availability is anticipated for 2010 given the drop of six per cent recorded in the breeding flock in the CSO June 2009 livestock survey.

However, more positive prices at the breeding sales this autumn may suggest some levelling off in breeding numbers.

Lamb prices were marginally higher in 2009 at €3.75 /kg dw excl. VAT, which is mainly due to the stronger prices for lamb from November onwards.

February 2010

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