Has the decline in suckler calvings continued?

The recent decreasing trend in suckler-calf registrations has continued, according to the latest figures released by the ICBF. This is particularly the case in heavily-populated dairy areas.

Looking at registration figures for April 2017, we saw that close to 380,000 beef calves were registered. This is a drop of 21,400 head when compared with the number of registrations for the corresponding period in 2016.

As the year progressed, the gap between 2016 and 2017 figures narrowed. Now that autumn-calving has finished up on most farms across the country, the current number of beef calves registered this year sits at 887,055 – a total drop of 13,119 on the number witnessed in 2016.

While this is a significant decrease of 1.4%, it must be noted that the drop experienced – at this time of year – between 2016 and 2015 was 19,744 – a fall of 2.1%.


However, between 2011 and 2016, there were some 250,000 extra calves born in Ireland – not all these calves were bred from dairy sires.

The proportion of calves registered to dairy sires in 2011 and 2016 was 35% and 34% respectively – representing an extremely fertile dairy cow herd.

In spite of this, most of the growth came from calf registrations from traditional sires – particularly Angus and Hereford. In 2011, there were 210,000 calves registered to Angus sires. This figure jumped to 350,000 in 2016 – a rise of 67%.

Similarly, the same can be said for Herefords. 120,000 Hereford-sired calves were registered in 2011; this figure has exceeded 200,000 for each of the past three years.

Also Read: Farmers ‘vote with their feet’ on beef sires

Here in Ireland, it is common knowledge that the drop in beef-calf registrations is due to the expansion of the dairy herd.

However, the drop in beef-calf registrations is not as severe as what was expected after the first few months of 2017.

Figures from the Central Statistic Office (CSO) show that there were 11,200 fewer suckler cows in Ireland in December 2016, than in the same month of 2015. Naturally, this has led to fewer births and lower registrations occurring on Irish suckler farms this year.

Calf birth changes so far this year:
  • Beef calf births: -13,119 head;
  • Dairy calf births: +44,146 head;
  • Total calf births: +31,027 head.