New data from the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS) suggests that the current tight supply of cattle in the UK market may ease during the next 12-24 months, according to analysis by Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC).
A limited supply of cattle in Britain – along with strong domestic retail demand and short-term disruption to imports during the Covid pandemic – has been identified as a key factor in current high farm-gate prices, with average prices for many categories of prime cattle in England and Wales currently above the historically high level of £4 per kilo.
However, newly-released BCMS data show that calf registrations during 2021 were strong, with both beef and dairy registrations up on the previous year. Looking at beef calf registrations, males and females combined were up 0.3% on the year, and up 1.8% when compared to 2019. The total number of calf registrations in Wales in 2021, including dairy cattle, stood at 396,200 head – 2.3% (or 8,700 head) higher than in 2020, and a 4.3% increase in registrations when compared to 2019.
The figures are analysed in the February edition of HCC’s Market Bulletin, which looks at the latest prices and industry trends.
Tight supply key factor in driving prices
HCC’s Data Analyst Glesni Phillips said: “As shown by HCC’s ‘Beef Supply Update’ report in July, the tight supply of animals onto the market – both here and around the world – has been a key factor in driving price trends.”
She added: “While this is unlikely to change immediately, the new BCMS figures on calf registrations give a hint that we may have an increased supply of cattle further down the line.
“The suckler cow herd, which has been retracting in recent years, shows no signs of re-building quickly,” added Glesni. “But the total number of calf registrations would suggest that supply onto the domestic UK market may increase in the longer term as these animals mature and come onto the market.”
The statistics also show a particular increase in calf registrations in the first quarter of the year (up 8.4% on the five-year average) and the fourth quarter (up 3.9%), which indicates a shift in farming practices.
“The marked seasonal trends in the BCMS data would suggest that more farmers in Wales are aiming for a more defined Spring and Autumn calving block, rather than calving all year round,” explained Glesni.
HCC’s Market Bulletin can be downloaded here: https://meatpromotion.wales/en/news-industry-info/market-bulletin