English suckler herd declining, as dairy numbers rise

Similar to the situation in Ireland, the English suckler herd is also declining significantly, as the dairy herd sees growth.

EBLEX in its latest weekly newsletter outlined DEFRA statistics which shows the English suckler herd has continued to decline, falling a further three per cent on the year to 699,000 head. According to EBLEX, this decline in beef cow numbers reflects the ongoing concerns over profitability in the beef sector.

It noted while the overall breeding herd is still showing decline, the component parts of it are now diverging. At 1.14 million head the dairy herd showed a second consecutive year of growth, increasing by more than one per cent on year earlier levels. EBLEX highlighted that the rise in dairy cow numbers shows that the dairy industry is more optimistic and some sections are looking to expand.

EBLEX noted at 1.84 million head the total English female breeding herd was marginally down on year earlier levels. At this point the breeding herd has been falling year on year since 2002, although given the disruptions of Foot and Mouth in 2001, the slight rise recorded in 2002 may have been somewhat anomalous.

The total number of cattle and calves in England, as of 1 December, was marginally up on the year, having totalled 5.3 million head.

In terms of cattle supplies EBLEX noted, there is some potential for a modest increase in supplies in the short term. It said the number of male cattle on the ground over two years of age and those aged between one and two years were both higher on the year.

However it highlighted, looking further ahead, the number of cattle under one-year-of-age was lower. This situation clearly has implications for longer-term beef production, especially when combined with the declining breeding population of beef breeding animals.

EBLEX is the organisation for beef and lamb levy payers in England and is part of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board.

Image: Simmental suckler herd. Photo O’Gorman Photography.

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