COMMENT: Irish Livestock Farming 10-Year Comparison: An analysis of Department of Agriculture livestock statistics over the past 10 years highlights the evolution of breed choice within the beef sector and the move towards greater specialisation amongst dairy farmers.

Taking a snapshot of beef and dairy sired calving births for the years 2012, 2007 and 2002 we see some interesting trends over these five and 10-year increments.

Beef Cow Breeding and Sire Choice

Looking at 2002 Beef  bred calves we see than in 2002 the Charolais breed was the dominate beef sire choice, with 44 per cent of beef cows giving birth to Charolais sired calves. 10 years later Charolais still leads the pack but only just, having seen their overall percentage fall to 35 per cent, see supporting charts attached. The clear winner within the beef herd in recent years has been the Limousin breed, increasing from 25 per cent to 34 per cent of all beef sire births between the years of 2002 and 2012. Likewise, gains are also noted with Belgian Blues and Angus cattle. A strong increase was also noted amongst some of the smaller breeds in 2012, with 36,775 extra calves born compared to 2007 figures, see supporting charts attached

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Screen Shot 2013-10-23 at 15.10.38 Screen Shot 2013-10-23 at 15.10.28Screen Shot 2013-10-23 at 15.10.47Dairy farmers gearing up for post-quota expansion

The growing specialisation of dairy farmers is abundantly clear from the statistics. In 2002 and 2007, less than 50 per cent of Irish dairy cows were breed with a dairy bull. 2012 figures show dramatic changes in just a five year period. Compared to 2007 the following calf birth data was noted in 2012;

  • Almost two thirds of all Irish dairy cows are now bred with a dairy Holstein Friesian sire. 2012 dairy cow calving numbers indicate that Friesian Holstein sired calf numbers are up by 208,103. Inversely, dairy cow calving’s mated to the top five beef breeds are back 147,316.
  • Other dairy breeds are making inroads on the overall dominance of Holstein Friesians in Dairy. Their 98 per cent ratio of pure dairy bred calf births in 2007 slipped to 94 per cent in 2012.

Tom O’Callaghan has 15 years of global experience in the agri-food sector, including dairy, meat, consumer package goods, bio-fuels and farming-owned co-operatives. He is currently focusing on emerging area of improving efficiency through agri-analytics and is advising on agri-food and farm efficiency expansion across Eastern Europe and former Soviet Union countries. He is also the former ceo of ICOS.