Expansion continues to drive calf numbers – Dairy births up 69,000 head

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

According to the ICBF, calf births are 2.6% or 51,507 higher this year to the week ending September 2 compared to the corresponding time last year.

The majority of this increase is in the form of dairy births which have jumped by 69,270 head (5.9%) during the first eight months of 2016 on last year.

The rise in dairy calf births coincides with the abolition of milk quotas in Ireland.

Figures from Teagasc show that both cow numbers and milk production jumped on Irish farms between 2014 and 2015 due to ceasing of milk production under a quota regime.

In 2015, Irish dairy farmers produced 748m more litres of milk than the year before, while dairy cow numbers increased by 13%.

Recently released figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) also show that there were 103,000 (+7.9%) more dairy cows in Ireland in June 2016 compared to the same time last year.

Year-on-year calf birth changes:
  • Total: +51,507 head (+2.6%)
  • Dairy: +69,270 head (+5.9%)
  • Beef: -17,763 head (-2.2)

However, despite the rise in dairy calf births, figures from the ICBF show that beef births continue to lag behind last year.

To the week ending September 2, Irish farmers had registered 2.2% or 17,763 fewer beef calves compared to 2015.

calf-births-icbf
Source: ICBF

February and March the busiest months on dairy farms

Over half of all the dairy cows calving in 2015 gave birth in either February or March, compared to just 28% of all beef cows, figures from the ICBF show.

It shows that 57% of all dairy births occurred during February and March, with 81% of calvings taking place in the first four months of the year.

Looking at the beef results, the calving pattern isn’t quite as compact as dairy farms, with April being the busiest month for beef calvings.

Dairy and beef calvings 2015:

Proportion of calving births for 2015 Source: ICBF
Source: ICBF
A total of 54% of beef calvings took place from January through to April, which is 27% less than the dairy figures.

Beef calvings took place mainly in the spring time with the results not quite as compact as the dairy results, the ICBF says.

In 2015 just over 44% of the total number of combined beef and dairy births happened in February and March, while this percentage increased to 69% when the time frame was increased to between January and April.

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