How have changes in dairy inseminations affected beef production?

Thursday, 12 November 2020

By Felicity Rusk

Over the last couple of years, we have seen the impacts that insemination decisions within the dairy herd have had on the types of calves being born. One of these trends is the rise in the number of dairy females being put to a beef sire, which has resulted in an increase in the number of beef-dairy crosses being born. But, what does this mean in terms of beef production?

Between April 2015 and April 2020, we estimate that around 14,000 beef sired dairy calves1 were born per month in Great Britain. Over a 12-month period, this equates to almost 170,000 calves. Assuming all of these animals would be reared for prime beef production, this roughly translates into around 58,500 tonnes2 of prime beef. This equates to around 8% of the GB three-year average beef production3 (2017-19).

Looking ahead, we expect an additional 54,000 beef calves from dairy dams to be born between June 2020 and June 2021. This would roughly translate to an additional 19,000 tonnes of prime beef entering the GB market between late 2021 and 2023.

However, this may not necessarily translate into an equivalent rise in beef production. The reduction in the number of dairy bull calves being born due to the increased utilisation of sexed and beef semen means there are fewer of these type of cattle available for finishing. As such, a proportion of these beef-dairy crosses are displacing the loss of the dairy bulls.

The British beef and dairy industry has historically been strongly integrated, with around half of overall production coming from the dairy herd. With more dairy cattle being put to beef bulls and on-going reduction in the size of the suckler herd, these strong ties between the two sectors are set to continue.

  1. Estimated monthly number of calves born based on a 12-month rolling average basis.
  2. Uses UK 3-year average (2017-19) prime carcase weight of 345.4kg.
  3. GB production is an estimated based on actual UK production figures and estimated production figures for Northern Ireland.

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