Latest survey on cattle numbers shows decline in EU herds

EU - A warning from critics of the reformed Common Agricultural Policy that production of beef would decline, possibly to a dangerously low level and leave the EU over reliant on importsis proving to partially correct, according to the June census figures from several countries. The numbers were recently been collated by the Meat and Livestock Commission.
calendar icon 21 November 2006
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Total cattle numbers have fallen most in the member states with the largest herds - Germany, France and the United Kingdom. In Germany there has been a fall of 3% with the total herd now under 13 million.
Most notable among the German statistics has been a further drop of 3% in the dairy herd with the result that the number of milk cows has
fallen by 15% since 1998.
For the second consecutive year in the UK, there was a fall of 2% in the cattle herd to 10.17 million head. Despite poor returns from milk production, the total of dairy cows slipped by just 1% to 2.04 million. However, the beef breeding herd declined by 3% to 1.71 million - the comparable figure for 1999 was 1.9 million cows.
The real surprise in the UK figures is that the number of heifers retained for future breeding is virtually unchanged. This may be an indication that the 20% rise in the value of finished cattle and the strong trade for stores has prompted some farmers who had previously indicated that they would reduce numbers to review their position.
The number of dairy cows in France has fallen by almost 2% to 3.66 million, but the beef breeding herd has bucked all the trends by rising by almost 1% to 4.08 million. France was the only EU member state to retain the suckler cow premium following CAP reform with the government claiming that it was vital to maintain the level of beef production.
Census data is not yet available from the Irish Republic, but there have been concerns expressed that beef production is in decline. To address this situation, Dublin announced last month that as from next year a premium of e100 (£67.80) per cow will be available to the 60,000 farmers in Ireland who have almost one million suckler cows.


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