Steer supply limits effect of FMD on UK's home tonnage Relatively high numbers of steers available for slaughter have limited the decline in UK beef production to less than the contraction suggested by the national cattle kill. DEFRA's estimate for January puts the home produced tonnage only 7.4% smaller than a year earlier, against the 10% drop in slaughterings reported earlier. The January steer kill was actually greater than in the previous corresponding period. But nearly 17% fewer heifers reached abattoirs, and young bull slaughterings showed a surprisingly sharp fall of more than 14%. FMD livestock movement controls were the main reason for the lower kill overall, but reduced numbers of heifers can be expected to remain a feature of the market if farmers continue trying hard to rebuild breeding herds. Restocking means short to medium term restriction of slaughter stock availability. Finished cattle availability might increase strongly from late 2003, although there are subsidy-related constraints on long term supply. The outlook for the sheep sector is probably similar. Retentions for breeding will limit lamb and hogget supply to slaughterers, though before FMD it was already possible to detect signs of structural shrinkage in the national flock. And as for pigs, further severe contraction of output capacity is possible or probable. This could tend to boost short term supply of sow meat, though much of it would be exported. {{MEAT }}

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