GB milking herd: youngstock in decline for the second consecutive quarter

Wednesday, 13 September 2023

The latest data shows a relatively small year-on-year decline in the GB milking herd of 0.6%, with July figures totalling 1.62 million head. This continues the trend of year-on-year decline that has been seen consistently since 2018.

The youngstock population (less than 2 years) also saw a decline, reducing by 1.2% (11,500 head) compared to the same point last year, to stand at 929,000 head in July. This is the second consecutive quarterly decline for youngstock numbers, with this age group showing an increase from late 2020 to the beginning of 2023.

The only category to see annual growth was the 2–4 years grouping with a year-on-year increase of 21,800 head, the greatest increase in this age group since 2018. This trend can be traced back to increased youngstock numbers in 2021, as these cows mature into the milking herd. However, this was offset by considerable decline in all other age categories, in particular the 6–8 years group. This would suggest that to maintain herd sizes, farmers have been culling out older cows to make way for younger replacements.

Looking forward, cows will start to be moved into winter housing soon and with this some farmers will likely experience increased costs, especially for forage and feed. In addition, the lower milk prices currently being paid will lead to tightening margins. These combined effects may lead to further reduction in herd size over the coming months as farmers look to increase efficiency, possibly culling out more older cows.

Bar chart showing annual change in dairy cattle numbers by age grouping.

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Becky Smith

Analyst (Livestock)

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