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    Calf Registrations Recover with Export Market
23/03/07

Following the lifting of the beef export ban in May 2006, nearly 76,000 mainly dairy-bred calves have travelled to the Continent – predominantly to the Netherlands, Belgium and France – reveals the latest analysis of British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS) records by the English Beef and Lamb Executive (EBLEX).

limousin calf

The records also show GB cattle passport applications totalling 2.77 million in 2006 – up more than 18,000 (or nearly 1%) on the previous year, although still some 175,000 per year down on 2003 and 2004 levels.

Examination of the monthly figures for 2006 indicates the sharp annual decline in calf registrations evident in 2005 continued for the first three months of the year. This, however, was followed by an increase of over 53,000 (2.5%) from April to December as first the prospect then the reality of renewed live exports boosted producer confidence.

The importance of the export trade is underlined by the recovery in Friesian/Holstein bull calf prices at auction recorded by MLC from last April.

Weak demand from the Continental veal trade towards the end of the year and into the beginning of 2007 has been a significant factor in the more recent decline in dairy bull calf prices to only just over £20/head. Even at this level, though, they remained significantly higher than last spring.

This and the confidence the re-opened export market has provided the industry is reflected in early 2007 registration data indicating a continuing year-on-year increase in passport applications.

Strong domestic market fundamentals, with a projected 3% decline in annual slaughterings, continued growth in consumption and a stabilising of imports at below 2005 levels, look likely to ensure the very much firmer UK beef market of 2006 continues through the coming year. Especially so in view of the increasing deficit of manufacturing grade beef, in particular, across the European Union.

The extent to which this feeds through to dairy calf demand will, of course, depend on the economics of bull beef finishing which is certainly not being helped by this season’s high cereal prices. Even so, it is to be hoped that prime cattle prices a consistent 10p/kg deadweight or more higher than this time last year will provide sufficient encouragement for more dairy farmers to keep more surplus pure-bred bull calves for rearing in 2007, further reducing the national wastage of early disposal.

link National Spring Spectacular Calf Show at Beef Expo 2007
link Limousin is UK's Largest Numerical Cattle Breed
link Herd Notebook for Beef Producers - EBLEX

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