How many suckler and dairy calves were registered in 2018?

The number of calves registered to beef cows – suckler calf registrations in other words – has continued to fall, figures released by the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) show.

This will be unsurprising to most, as many suckler farmers have struggled to just break-even in recent years, while some have moved away from suckler beef farming in search of more lucrative pastures.

In 2014, beef calf registrations stood at just over 928,000 head. While the abolition of the milk quotas in 2015 paved the way for an expansion of the national dairy herd, the number of beef calves registered in 2015 actually increased by 20,302 head and stood at just under 948,700 in 2015.

However, this was last year in which beef calf births witnessed an increase. Looking at beef registration figures for 2016, beef calf numbers stood at 940,845 head.

This number fell to 929,911 head in 2017. And, ICBF figures indicate that in 2018, total beef calf registrations fell by 45,397 head and amounted to 884,514 head – a drop of 5%.

This figure is well below the five-year average of 926,470 head.

Data source: ICBF

Dairy calf registration

On the other hand, the national dairy herd has recorded significant, successive growth. In 2014, dairy calf registrations stood at just over 1,170,935 head.

In 2015, this figure jumped by 99,417 head and the number of dairy calves registered to dairy dams amounted to 1,270,352 head.

According to ICBF figures, further growth was witnessed in 2016 and 2017 when the number of calves registered reached 1,347,520 and 1,393,758 head respectively.

The number of dairy calves registered in 2018 amounted 1,434,332 head. This is a jump of 40,574 head – the highest figure over the last five years.

Data source: ICBF

Overall calf registrations

From 2014 to 2017, the total number of calves registered increased successively – mainly driven by the increase in the dairy industry.

However, looking at overall calf registrations (both beef and dairy) in 2018, some 2,318,846 calves have been registered – an 4,853 head decrease on 2017 levels.

Calf birth changes 2018 V 2017:

  • Beef calf births: 884,514 (-45,397 head);
  • Dairy calf births: 1,434,332 (+40,574 head);
  • Total calf births: 2,318,846 head or (-4,853 head).
Data source: ICBF