Rising dairy cow numbers have driven an increase in the number of calf births this year, new figures show.

Data released by the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) shows that nearly 1.82 million calves have been registered on Irish farms this year – an increase of 3.5% or 24,599 head on the the same period in 2016.

The majority of this increase follows a jump in dairy calf registrations, which are up by 40,848 head or 3.5% so far this year to reach 1.21 million head.

However, a change appears to be happening at farm level as there has been a noticeable drop in the number of beef calves born on Irish farms.

Year-on-year calf birth changes:
  • Dairy: +40,848 head (+3.5%).
  • Beef: -16,249 head (-2.6%).
  • Total: +23,599 head (+1.4).

The latest figures from the ICBF show that 601,586 beef calves have been registered on Irish farms so far this year.

This is a marked drop on the number registered during the corresponding period in 2016.

Beef calf registrations stood at 617,835 during the same period in 2016 – almost 16,249 head or 2.6% higher than current levels.

Source: ICBF

One of the reasons for this fall could have been the decline in the suckler herd, but it must be noted that it is still relatively early in the year and many more beef calvings will occur as the year progresses.

Figures from the Central Statistics Office show that there were 11,200 fewer suckler cows in Ireland in December 2016 than in the same month in 2015.

This reduction is likely to have led to fewer beef births occurring on Irish farms.