Fallen cattle totalled 6,121 head in April, up from 2,872 in April 2012, according to figures from the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD). Numbers of fallen cattle have climbed month-on-month since October 2012 with poor grass growth last summer contributing to livestock moving indoors earlier and a general fodder shortage. Severe weather this spring exacerbated the problem, with farmers struggling to reach cattle in remote locations.
“Reports from producers have indicated that the combination of these factors has led to increased incidences of mortality on farm,” said a bulletin from the Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC) for Northern Ireland. “An increase in calving difficulties over the winter and spring in particular has resulted in an increase in both cow and calf mortalities as a result.”
Of the fallen cattle processed by renderers in April 2013, 3,855 head or 63% were cows. Based on an average cow carcase weight of 293kg for 2013 to date, and an average cow price of 271.6p/kg, LMC has calculated potential lost revenue to farmers of around £3.1m for April; not including the lost value of raw material for processing.
“This increased mortality could lead to a tightening in the number of cows in particular available for slaughter later in the year and represents a significant loss of revenue to the industry,” according to LMC. The anticipated shortage is likely to have an impact on the market for cheaper cuts going into products such as mince, driving up demand and potentially price, a spokesman for LMC added.
DARD statistics also highlight losses for the Northern Irish sheep sector, with 43,000 head collected through the fallen stock scheme as a result of the cold snap this spring, including 30,500 lambs and 12,500 ewes and rams. Fallen cattle collected from affected areas totalled 1,140 head.
NI secretary of state Theresa Villiers visited Hannan Meats in Moira this week, as part of an initiative aimed at boosting export prospects to overcome obstacles such as adverse weather conditions.