UK prime cattle slaughterings in May 2015 were down 8% from last year to 143,800 head, a fall of 12,100 head, AHDB, the organisation for the English beef and sheep industry, says.

AHDB says that all categories of prime cattle recorded reduced throughputs and, most notably, steer numbers were down 3% from the same time last year.

Much of this reduction in throughputs came in England and Wales, it says.

AHDB says that this development now gives some clear evidence that the anticipated tightening of supplies has started.

Heifer throughputs were back 6% at 53,100 head and the impact of increased castrations continued to have a bearing on young bull numbers, down over a quarter on the year at 16,300 head, it says.

For the first time this year adult cattle throughputs were back on the year earlier, down 3% at 38,700 head, it says.

AHDB says that higher prime cattle carcase weights did little to offset the lower numbers.

Beef and veal production was back 7%, or 4,700t on the year at 63,700t.

Despite higher numbers in January and February, the lower throughputs in the last three months has meant that at 817,300 head, the total number of prime cattle slaughtered at UK abattoirs in the year to date is now over 2% back on the year, AHDB says.

According to AHDB, the UK adult cattle kill for the five-month period is still trending higher on the year, up over 1% at 243,700 head, with increased throughputs in England and Wales driving the increase.

However, slaughter cows have been consistently lighter than last year, which in production terms has offset the higher numbers to some extent, AHDB says.