Market report: Heifer slaughterings prompt breeder fears

Latest slaughtering figures from DEFRA reveal the continuing trend for farmers to cash in on high heifer prices, with more potential breeding stock sent to the abattoir.

June results show that almost 60,000 heifers were slaughtered over the four week period, compared with 54,000 in the same month last year – a rise of over 10%. “The concern is what this will mean for the size of the breeding herd,” said EBLEX economics manager Mark Topliff.

Over the first half of the year, heifer slaughterings were up 6% on the first half of 2008, in contrast to steer and young bull slaughterings, which were 3% and 6% lower respectively.

The temptation for cattle farmers to dispose of heifers is easy to understand. Last week the GB average finished heifer value came to 151.3p/kg lw compared with 147p/kg for steers sold at auction.

Generally, UK cattle supplies remain tight, underpinning the market. “This is indicative of the continuing structural change going on in the industry, with questions being raised over the profitability of keeping cattle in return for the workload,” said Mr Topliff.