More prime cattle, smaller breeding herd in GB

Thursday, 17 March 2022

On 1 Jan 2022, there were 7.77 million cattle and calves in Great Britain, up 0.3% (26,000 head) from the same point a year ago.

The number of dairy and beef females aged over 30 months decreased by a further 2% year-on-year to 2.9 million head, continuing the long-term decline seen in British cow numbers.

Looking at prime cattle for beef production (dairy males, beef males and beef females aged 12-30 months, accounting for suckler replacements), these animals grew by 2% in number year-on-year to 1.49 million head.

Within this, there were more animals in all age brackets compared to the year before, apart from 24-30 months, which recorded a 4% decline. This is the tail-end of the smaller cohort of prime cattle that stemmed from lower calf registrations in 2018/2019, partly due to effects of poor weather. The largest year-on-year increase was in animals aged 18-24 months.

Looking at the type of cattle in the 12-30 month age bracket, the number of beef animals (including purebred and dairy-beef crosses) increased, while the quantity of pure dairy males remained largely stable overall. However, the number of younger pure dairy males (under 6 months) continues to fall, reflecting the increasing use of beef and sexed dairy semen among dairy producers.

We forecast that UK beef production will increase slightly in 2022 compared to 2021, as these larger supplies of cattle come forward later in the year. Read our outlook for more detailed analysis.

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