TheBeefSite.com - news, features, articles and disease information for the beef industry

News

LMC Report: NI Beef Cattle Numbers Stabilising

23 March 2009

UK - This year’s December survey results for the UK made grim reading for stakeholders in the cattle industry in GB. The results published by DEFRA show cattle numbers continuing to fall across the UK in general.

Numbers have fallen across all ages of cattle, with beef cow numbers down by three per cent on the 2007 figure. Increased calf registrations, higher retention of dairy bull calves and closure of export markets for live calves has led to stability in the number of calves under one year old. However, the number of calves still fell by 4,000 head in 2008.

More positivity in NI

The UK experience is in contrast to NI where the DARD December Survey revealed early evidence of a revival in Northern Ireland cattle numbers in 2008.

In 2008, the number of beef cows was up three per cent and the number of heifers-incalf was up six per cent on 2007 levels. The number of cattle under six months old was also up by four per cent, providing some evidence of improved confidence in the industry.

Overall numbers of cattle under two-years old were down, from 931,000 head in 2004 to 816,000 head in 2008. The industry can take some encouragement from the fact that this decline appears to be easing. The fall in numbers accelerated after decoupling was introduced in 2005 with a decline of 89,000 head between 2006 and 2007. By the end of 2007 in NI there were ten per cent fewer cattle aged under two-years old than in 2005.

UK Livestock Numbers, December
  000 Head
2007 2008 % change
Beef Cows 1,663 1,621 -2.6
Other heifers> 2 yrs 796 790 -0.8
Other cattle > 2 yrs 338 333 -1.5
Other cattle 1-2 yrs 2,457 2,424 -1.3
Other cattle < 1 yr 2,843 2,839 -0.1
Total cattle 8,097 8,007 -1.0

Decline levelling off

In 2008 the decline appeared to “level out” with a fall of only 5,500 head (0.7 per cent) on the 2007 figure. With the number of cattle under six months old having grown by 8,000 head in 2008, an increase in the number of cattle under two years old in 2009 is possible. Moreover, the improvement in the prime cattle price by around 10 per cent on the same week last year coupled with falling farm input prices may also encourage some farmers to consider expanding their herds.

NI Livestock Numbers, December
  000 Head
Cows Heifers in
calf (beef)
2 year + 1>2
years
6mth>1
year
< 6 mth
2004 287.9 56.4 97.0 399.5 336.4 195.3
2005 284.2 46.6 105.7 408.3 298.4 204.9
2006 275.4 47.1 110.5 382.0 286.0 188.3
2007 249.4 44.9 105.8 364.6 268.3 189.4
2008 257.7 47.5 108.7 352.1 267.4 197.3

Numbers falling globally

From a global perspective, some commentators are pointing to a slump in worldwide cattle numbers with numbers declining around Europe and exports from South America well behind 2007 figures.

NI - Cattle numbers up to 2 year old

French counter global trend

Only France, where the industry support has not been completely decoupled from production, appears to be the exception to this trend. In France cow numbers increased by one per cent and the number of heifers for breeding continued to rise in November 2008. The increase in the number of cattle one to two years old was not only the result of an increasing calf crop, but also lower live cattle exports because of Blue Tongue related movement restrictions.

Further Reading

- You can view the full report by clicking here.

TheCattleSite News Desk



Partners


Seasonal Picks

Managing Pig Health: A Reference for the Farm - 2nd Edition