The current reduction in the numbers of prime cattle in the UK is likely to continue according to a recent analysis of the composition of the UK cattle herd by EBLEX.

It says while latest figures from the UK Government show the breeding herd modestly grew, the component parts once again moved in opposite directions.

The UK’s dairy herd was up three per cent at 1.83 million head, while the beef herd continued its decline, falling by two per cent to 1.58 million head. The suckler herd in the UK has now fallen by nearly 88,000 head in the past three years, reflecting the on-going concerns over profitability in the beef sector.

EBLEX says over time this has resulted in tighter supplies, lower slaughterings and lower domestic beef production. Meanwhile, stability in dairy cow numbers is reflective of the previously more optimistic dairy sector.

Looking further ahead, it says fewer male and female cattle less than two years old are reported to be in the herd.

EBLEX detail that fewer younger cattle on the ground, combined with a declining breeding population, inevitably means a continuing decline in the supply of prime cattle in the longer term.

It says any turnaround is unlikely before 2016 because of the length of the production cycle. In any case, it would to a large extent depend on whether suckler beef producers’ confidence in the market being able to provide an adequate return improves.