English cattle herd shrinks again

Thursday, 30 September 2021

According to the Defra June survey, the number of cattle and calves in England decreased by a further 2% year-on-year to 5.1 million. Declines were seen in nearly all cattle groupings.

The number of dairy cows fell by 1% to 1.1 million, with suckler cow numbers showing a greater rate of decline, falling by over 3% to 665,000. This brought the total female breeding herd to stand at 1.8 million animals, 2% smaller than a year ago. This follows longer-term trends for cow numbers, although does suggest that the dairy herd decline is levelling off.

Looking at other cattle, the largest declines were seen in the population of animals aged 2 years and over. The number of animals aged between 1-2 years posted more modest declines. For females, this was largely driven by fewer beef animals, as numbers of dairy youngstock increased.

On the other hand, the population of cattle aged under 1 year old increased in size, largely driven by increased numbers of dairy females. Beef females recorded a more modest increase. In the Defra June data, males are not split into beef / dairy types. However, the changes in female numbers align with recent data on calf registrations (although this data refers to GB).

We await full UK data for a fuller picture, but there is nothing in the English data to suggest a strong recovery in prime beef production next year, but instead, rather more dairy replacements coming through.

Image of staff member Hannah Clarke

Hannah Clarke

Senior Analyst (Red Meat)

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