Milking herd shrinks, and further falls expected

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

The GB milking herd has continued to shrink, according to the latest data from BCMS. As at 1 July, the GB milking herd totalled 1.73 million head, 2.7% (48,000 head) fewer animals than the same point last year.

The largest drop was in cows aged 2-4 years, which accounted for 90% of the decline in the overall milking herd. This is primarily due to historic calving and insemination decisions. Meanwhile, the number of animals under 1 year declined by 2.0%, putting further downward pressure on herd sizes going forward.

By making assumptions on the proportion of cows that will be retained in the herd alongside the youngstock numbers, we can estimate the national herd size for the future. Our expectation is that the number of cows aged 2+ years next July will be around 1.70 million, a drop of 2% compared with the current level.

While last year demonstrated that herd size is not the only factor driving production, a shrinking herd increases pressure on improving yields in order to maintain overall milk volumes.

Felicity Rusk

Analyst - Livestock

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