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    National Beef Calf Decline Accelerates
2009-11-02

The declining national cattle breeding herd and continued switch away from beef inseminations among dairy producers up to 2007/8 has led the decline in calves available for beef production in Great Britain to accelerate noticeably over the past year, reveals the latest British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS) data analysed by EBLEX, the industry body for beef and lamb levy-payers in England.

© www.jennifermackenzie.co.uk

beef shorthorn herd

A total of 2.56 million calves were registered with BCMS between August 2008 and July 2009. Of these around 450,000 were pure-bred dairy heifers, leaving just over 2.1 million calves available for the beef industry. This represents a decline of over 108,000 (5%) on the previous year against some 86,000 (4%) the year before.

Despite the continued decline in national dairy cow numbers, nearly 64,000 more dairy-sired calves were registered in the year. This and the contracting national beef herd meant around 137,000 (7%) fewer beef calves were produced; which, in turn, led the proportion of beef-sired stock to fall back to less than 70% of the annual calf crop.

Unsurprisingly perhaps given their particular use in dairy AI, Limousins and Belgian Blues together accounted for nearly two thirds of the annual beef-sired calf decline, with Charolais Simmental and Blonde d’Aquitaine-bred calf numbers also falling back markedly.

Even so, Limousins continued to dominate the beef industry, being responsible for 22% of all calves registered in 2008/9, ahead of Charolais at 10% and Aberdeen Angus at 9%.

Amongst the major beef breeds, Aberdeen Angus was the only one not to suffer a decline in calf numbers, building on the substantial gains achieved in recent years. It shared this honour with a number of other significant minority breeds, most notably the Montbeliarde, Stabiliser, Brown Swiss, Sussex, Beef Shorthorn and Devon.

BCMS Birth Registrations in Great Britain - 2007/8 and 2008/9

Breed/Type
Year to July 2008 Year to July 2009 Change
  Number % of Total Number % of Total  
Limousin 626,529 24% 569,689 22% - 56,840 (-9%)
Charolais 297,193 11% 267,154 10% - 30,039 (-10%)
Aberdeen Angus 229,524 9% 229,818 9% 294 (-)
Simmental 201,676 8% 182,528 7% - 19,148 (-9%)
Belgian Blue 187,425 7% 154,598 6% - 32,827 (-18%)
Hereford 94,487 4% 93,976 4% - 511 (-1%)
Blonde d’Aquitaine 66,801 3% 59,663 2% - 7138 (-11%)
Other beef breeds 191,408 7% 200,672 8% 9264 (+ 5%)
Total Beef-sired 1,895,043 72% 1,758,098 69% - 136,945 (-7%)
Total Dairy-sired 742,037 28% 805,761 31% 63,724 (+9%)
Beef Industry Total * 2,218,952 84% 2,110,952 82% - 108,316 (-5%)
Overall Total 2,637,080 2,563,859 - 73, 221 (-3%)

* Total births excluding purebred dairy heifers

link EBLEX Warns Producers Against Selling Under-Finished Cattle
link Improving Ewe Conception Rate to Boost Margins
link Down Shep! Dog Handling Course for Shepherds

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