English cattle herd contracts by 2% in June

Friday, 25 September 2020

As at 1 June 2020, the total number of cattle and calves in England totalled 5.2 million head, down 2% (-111,000 head) from June 2019, according to the latest survey data from Defra.

Total numbers of both female and male cattle declined by approximately the same amount (55,000-56,000 head).

For females, the largest declines came in the number of animals over two years old, especially those in the breeding herd (-2%). Older non-breeding females also saw a notable decline in numbers, down 6% on the year. This aligns with a rise in cow slaughter seen so far in this year, helped by sustained retail demand for beef and buoyant farmgate prices. Historic calving trends will also be playing a part here.

Female cattle under one year old were the only category to experience year-on-year growth, albeit modest. This would align with recent calving trends, and may point to a future stabilisation in the breeding herd if numbers persist.

Turning to male cattle, declines were seen in all age bands, with the largest being among animals aged under two years old. Again, this aligns with historic calving trends, but also to some degree will reflect the rise of sexed semen, which now accounts for just over half of GB dairy semen sales.


The results in this release are estimates, and subject to change, and may be updated with the final UK figures on 17 December 2020.

Hannah Clarke

Analyst - Livestock

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