Prime cattle slaughterings in Northern Ireland during 2014 to date have totalled 209,145 head, according to latest figures from the Livestock and Meat Commission.

It says this was 6% lower than the 221,534 head slaughtered in the corresponding period last year and 4% lower than the corresponding period in 2012. Cow throughput in the Northern plants during 2014 to date has totalled 51,029 head compared to 57,908 head in the corresponding period in 2013. This accounts for a 12% decline year on year.

The LMC outline that prime beef cattle throughput in Northern Ireland has increased in recent weeks with weekly throughput now similar to the levels recorded in 2013. The plants have reported a steady supply of all types of cattle to meet customer demand.

However, it notes that while prime cattle throughput in Northern Ireland has shown some recovery there have been key changes to the slaughter mix when compared to year earlier levels. During August 2014 13% of the prime kill were young bulls compared to 27% in the corresponding period in 2013.

Meanwhile, the proportion of the prime cattle kill made up of steers has increased from 39% to 53% while the proportion of heifers remains unchanged at 34%.

The LMC says the decline in the number of young bulls being presented for slaughter can be attributed to more stringent enforcement of penalties on young bulls slaughtered over 16 months. Producers have had to alter their production systems to avoid these penalties by finishing young bulls at lower ages or castrate the bulls and finish them as steers.

It says as a result the average age of slaughter of price reported young bulls during August 2014 was 15.2 months compared to 16.5 months in August 2013.

While the average age at slaughter for young bulls has recorded a decline year on year the average age at slaughter of price reported steers increased from 25.7 months in August 2013 to 26.3 months in August 2014. The LMC says this increase is likely to be a consequence of reduced animal performance due to production difficulties in 2012 and 2013. Meanwhile the average slaughter age for heifers was unchanged year on year at 26.1 months in August 2014.