A rosy future beckons for beef producers, with strong consumer confidence in the home-grown product and support for native-bred cattle strengthening.
That was the view of the English Beef & Lamb Executive, whose senior analyst, Debbie Butcher, said the outlook for returns to producers was robust.
But a shift towards expanding the herd ultimately depended on the prospect of positive farm-gate margins, which would encourage producers to invest in their businesses, she stressed.
Cattle supplies were expected to remain tight as a direct result of the decline in the breeding herd – and this would impact on beef and veal production levels in 2013 and 2014, said Mrs Butcher.
Meanwhile calf registrations in the first five months of 2013 were significantly back on the year, with non-dairy calf registrations over 70,000 head lower due to producers' concerns about high production costs against the backdrop of an uncertain economic outlook.
"The consequence of this will undoubtedly be a reduction in the production of beef and, even if producers begin to rebuild herds now, any turnaround in production is unlikely before 2016," she said.
Looking ahead to 2014, a return to more normal finished weights was likely to offset the reduced throughputs to some extent, and so production was forecast to be little changed on this year's level.
Mrs Butcher explained exports this year were forecast to be similar to last year and would amount to a broadly unchanged percentage share of production. Firm demand for manufacturing beef was likely to continue to support export prospects, as consumers on the continent continued to trade down to cuts such as mince and burgers.
But so far as imports were concerned, they would certainly be down as a result of the horsemeat scandal revelations.
"Some slight recovery is expected next year as both fresh and frozen and processed imports are expected to be higher," said Mrs Butcher. "The upturn in production in Ireland also suggests scope for increased trade with the UK for this year and next."
With no increase in production and a broadly level trade position, supplies available for domestic consumption will be modestly lower in 2013 than in the previous year. Only a small increase in available supply was expected next year, largely on the back of an increase in imports.