English cattle population falls by 2.2% in December

Thursday, 27 February 2020

By Felicity Rusk

As at 1 December, the total cattle population in England totalled 5.15 million head, 2.2% (115,000 head) less than at the same point in the previous year, according to the latest survey from Defra.

While all groupings recorded decline on the year, it was the reduction in males under two years that accounted for 45% of the overall decline. However, this is unsurprising, as in recent years we have seen shifts in the type of semen used in dairy inseminations. Sexed semen now accounts for almost 1 in 3 dairy inseminations. Furthermore, beef semen usage has also been on the rise.

Meanwhile reductions in the breeding herd accounted for a quarter of the overall decline. However, the number of female cattle under 1 year recorded a comparatively smaller decline of 0.4%. This agrees with trends we have seen in calving patterns in recent months. This suggests we could see some stabilisation of the breeding herd over the next couple of years.


The marked reduction in cattle aged >2 years and 1-2 years suggest that the number of cattle available for slaughter is likely to be tighter this year. This agrees with our latest beef market outlook.

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