Declines in GB milking herd expected to slow

Thursday, 12 December 2019

By Felicity Rusk

The GB milking herd has been in decline for several years. However, the latest population data from BCMS showed that the number of youngstock (under 2 years) has recorded the smallest year on year decline in three years.

Using historical data* on the proportion of cows that will be retained in the herd, we can estimate the size of the future national milking herd. Our expectation is that the milking herd (2+ years) will be around 1.72 million head by October 2020, a drop of 1.9% compared with the current level.


While the herd is still expected to decline, it is at a slower rate than previously. At 1 October 2019, the GB milking herd recorded a decline of 2.4%.

The number of female dairy cattle registered has remained relatively stable this year (Jan-Sep) compared to the same period in both 2017 and 2018. As such, we could see some stabilisation in the size of the milking herd in the future, as these females enter the milking herd, assuming retention rates remain at a similar level to recent years. However, changes in milk prices, cull cow prices and the prevalence of disease have the potential to influence retention rates, and therefore affect the forecast. 

* The average retention rate at October for each age category over the past three years (2017-19) has been used to estimate the number of cows in each age category in October 2020.

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