Increase in beef bulls on dairy cows drives NI’s rise in beef-sired calves

Figures show more Northern Ireland dairy farmers are choosing to serve cows with beef bulls again as the number of beef-sired calves registered from dairy herds rises to its highest level since 2017.

The latest figures collated by the Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC NI) showed that during the first eight months of 2020, there were a total of 278,286 beef-sired calves registered on NI farms.

The increase of 5,268 head marks an increase of 2% on from the year before.

The suckler herd continues to be the largest source of beef-sired calves. Calf registrations to suckler cows accounted for 68% of all beef calf registrations during the first eight months of 2020, rising by more than 3,000 head compared to 2019.

However, there have been a growing number of dairy cows being served using beef bulls in NI with 88,660 beef-sired calves registered to dairy cows during the 2020 period.

“This is up almost 2,000 head from the same period in 2019 and is at its highest recorded level since 2017,” the latest bulletin read.

These beef-cross calves have accounted for 32% of all beef calf registrations in the region between January and August this year.

“While beef sired registrations to dairy cows have increased the number of dairy sired calves registered has decreased during 2020 to-date.”

Over the same period, the number of dairy sired calf registrations fell by 2.3%.

Which beef breeds are dairy farmers choosing?

The figures showed Aberdeen Angus continued to be the most popular beef sire used in NI on dairy cows with 40,252 AA-cross calves so far this year.

“This is an increase from 35,743 head in the same period last year. If we consider the same period in 2013 there were just 17,117 Aberdeen Angus calves registered to dairy cows with the number of calves being registered increasing every year since,” LMC analysts explained.

Hereford came in at second with 13,082 dairy-cross calves registered during the first eight months of 2020 – a figure which has remained “fairly steady” since 2016.