Latest figures published by Defra show the first year-on-year growth in the English dairy breeding herd for 15 years.

According to DairyCo analysis the total dairy breeding herd on June 1 had increased by 2.6% on a year earlier, to 1.443 million head. The AHDB/DairyCo Farmer Intentions Survey 2014 identified increased confidence in the future of the industry, with around a quarter of Britian dairy farmers planning to take on more cows over the two-year period from 2014 to 2016.

Cow numbers had been steadily decreasing over recent years, but these latest figures suggest a further boost to GB milk production, with dairy cattle in England accounting for just under 75% of the total GB population. The number of dairy heifers aged between one and two years fell slightly between the two years, but a rise in the number of young stock suggests the potential for further growth in cow numbers longer-term.

Other major European milk producer the Netherlands also has seen dairy cow numbers increased by 1% to 1.57 million head. The dairy cow herd in the Netherlands has now increased by 6% over the past two years. Due to a better milk market and some subsequent expansion by producers.

Further demonstrating some optimism in the sector, there was an increase in the number of heifers for breeding, suggesting some expansion in replacement policy. The number of heifers over two-years-of-age for breeding was recorded to be up 14% on May 2013, those between one and two-years-of-age up 3% and those below one year up 5%.