Dairy youngstock population in decline

Thursday, 22 June 2023

The latest BCMS data show that the rate of decline in the GB milking herd is slowing.

In April the milking herd stood at just over 1.63 million head, a year-on-year decline of only 0.5% (-8,900 head), the smallest annual decline since 2018.

The 2–4-year-old category saw annual growth of over 17,500 head, with the previously higher number of youngstock now maturing into the milking herd. However, this growth was outweighed by annual declines in the older groups, especially the 6–8 years category.

bar chart showing annual change in dairy female cattle age groups

For the first time since early 2020, youngstock numbers (less than 2 years) have recorded a year-on-year decline, albeit only marginal at 0.7% (6,400 head) and the second consecutive quarterly decline.

If this is broken down into sub groups we see that the 1–2 years group has seen year-on-year growth (+12,700 head), however this is offset by the decline in the less than one year group (-19,100 head).

line graph showing the number of dairy females in the the milking herd and as youngstock

Looking ahead, it may be likely that we continue to see a decline in youngstock numbers.

The increased use and improved performance of sexed semen means many dairy farms are now only using their best cows to produce enough dairy females to use as replacements to maintain their current herd.

The tough market conditions currently in play may also lead to a number of farmers making the decision to increase their destocking rate, culling older cows to reduce herd size which could lead to an acceleration in the decline of the national milking herd.


Image of staff member Freya Shuttleworth

Freya Shuttleworth

Senior Analyst (Livestock)

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