Further declines in GB milking herd, youngstock numbers stabilise

Thursday, 28 November 2019

By Felicity Rusk

The GB milking herd has continued to shrink, according to the latest data from BCMS. As at 1 October, the GB milking herd totalled 1.75 million head, 2.4% (42,000 head) less than at the same point in the previous year.

Over the last 5 years the milking herd has fallen, on average, by 0.9% per year. While the October fall is significantly above the long-term average, it is slightly less than recorded in January, April and July 2019.


The largest drop was recorded in cows aged 2-4 years, which accounted for 88% of the overall decline. This is likely due to historic calving patterns and insemination decisions.

The number of cows aged 4-6 years was up by 2.4% (12,900 head) on the year. Culling rates were elevated last year as relatively strong cow prices gave farmers an incentive to cull. Additionally, the prospect of supplementing diets with concentrate feeds due to a lack of forage likely made producers cull harder than usual. Culling rates have been lower this year, which is likely why there has been some recovery in this age group.

The number of youngstock (under 2 years) was 0.8% (7,100 head) lower than the same point last year. Though the number of youngstock on the ground still recorded a decline, this is the smallest recorded year-on-year decline in three years.

If this slower rate of decline in the youngstock population continues, the decline in the overall herd is also likely to slow. As such, we could see some stabilisation of the GB milking herd in the future.

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