GB dairy cow population: milking herd remains flat year on year

Wednesday, 5 June 2024

As of 1 April 2024, the latest BCMS data shows that the GB milking herd stood at 1.64 million head. This matches the figure recorded in 2023, despite lower farmgate milk prices. This supports wider commentary that the lower milk production seen so far this year has been the result of reduced yields, rather than herd size.

Youngstock numbers (under two years of age), continued to decline for a fifth quarter. This was the largest category decline, down by 24,000 head from a year ago.

GB dairy population

female dairy population

Source: BCMS

Looking further into age groups, cows aged 2-4 years old were the only category to record growth year on year, up 23,000 head. This is the seventh consecutive quarterly increase in this age group, with the trend feeding off increased youngstock numbers recorded from late 2020 through to early 2023.

Steady decline is still seen in the 4-6 years and over 8 years categories, both declining by 6,000 head, while stronger decline remains in the 6-8 years olds (-11,000 head).

As a result of the changes seen within age groups, the average age of the milking herd now stands at 4.55 years, down from 4.60 years recorded in April last year. This shows a drive towards maintaining a more efficient national herd and reflective of the economic challenges that dairy farmers face.

Annual change in GB dairy herd by age as of 1 April 2024

annual change in GB herd size

Source: BCMS

Image of staff member Annabel Twinberrow

Annabel Twinberrow

Trainee Analyst

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