Suckler cow numbers are starting to increase in Northern Ireland, with more heifers being kept as replacements.
The number of heifers being slaughtered had dropped sharply over the past 12-18 months, said a report by the Livestock and Meat Commission. "This has had a large role to play in the fall of the prime kill figures."
In the year to June, prime cattle slaughterings were 63,198 head - 10.3% lower than the same period last year. Heifer slaughterings fell by 13.5% over the same period, to 59,292 head, with heifers now accounting for 36% of the total prime kill compared to 38% in 2011.
"This decline in the heifer kill has coincided with a continuing recovery of NI suckler cow numbers, which increased by 3% in the year to December 2011." Calf registrations in the first six months of this year had increased by 3.7% compared with the first half of 2011, with the number of beef-sired calf registrations up by 2.6%
The number of in-calf suckler heifers increased by 9% in the year to December, and beef calf numbers were likely to show a marked increase in the next few years, it added.