The young bull kill fell significantly in 2014 in Northern Ireland due to changes in the market whereby the value of over 16 month bulls fell sharply early in the year, according to the Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC) in Northern Ireland.

The LMC says with these bulls out of spec for retail contracts in the UK, and mainland European markets returning poorer prices than the UK beef market, the value of these cattle fell accordingly, as processors discounted these cattle relative to in-spec under 16 month bulls.

It says the upshot of this development in Northern Ireland was that the number of young bulls presented for slaughter in 2014 dropped by 25,000 head compared to the previous year (excludes calves).

The LMC says this was a substantial decline and was driven by farmers responding to the change in the market for young bulls in two main ways.

Firstly, with producers forewarned about these changes, there was a spike in the young bull kill in late 2013, as producers sought to dispose of bulls earlier, in the expectation of lower prices or penalties on over 16 month bulls in 2014. This meant that some bulls reaching maturity, that would otherwise have been slaughtered in 2014, were slaughtered in November and December of 2013.

Secondly, the LMC says many producers in Northern Ireland opted to cease bull production in 2014 and instead castrated their male calves and produced steer beef instead. This was an important driver in the sharp decline in the 2014 young bull kill, it says.