Prime cattle slaughterings fell by 3% in the year to July, to 173,200 head for the month.

Heifer throughputs were higher than last year for the fourth consecutive month; being 2% up in July at 61,500 head, said a report by EBLEX. “This sustained increase could indicate a reduction in the number of females being retained for breeding, which clearly has long-term implications for the UK beef industry.”

In contrast, steer slaughterings were down by 8%, while young bull throughputs were broadly unchanged on the year. “For the third month in a row, cull cow and adult bull throughputs were markedly lower, being back 14% on the year at 53,000 head,” said the report. Lower cereal prices could encourage more producers to retain cows on finishing rations, so already tight supplies could be accentuated further during the autumn, it added.

Average carcass weights for all cattle continued much lower on the year, with total beef and veal production 8% lower in July, at 75,500 tonnes. Slow demand eroded prime prices over the past month but tight supplies pointed to a more encouraging post-holiday period.

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