Irish cattle slaughterings have dropped by 13% in the past year on the back of reduced male cattle numbers.

In the year to May 2012, slaughterings fell to 585,000, with steer throughputs down by more than a quarter in the first five months of the year, compared with the same period in 2011. Bull slaughterings were up by 1%, according to a report by AHDB Meat Services.

The change in throughputs was due to a shift away from suckler beef production, with expanding Irish dairy herd producers finishing more dairy-bred bull calves instead. Heifer slaughterings were also down, by 14%, mainly due to farmers retaining more dairy replacements.

However, a marginal increase in cull cow slaughterings, to 127,000, partly offset the lower steer and heifer kill. And despite the decline in overall throughputs, total beef production was only 11% lower at 197,000t owing to increased carcass weights from young bulls and heifers.

Longer term trends reinforced the changing patterns in production. Over a two-year period, steer numbers were down by 38%, with bull slaughterings up by 31%, said the report. “Further year-on-year declines in male cattle slaughtering can be expected.”

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