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National Beef Calf Decline Accelerates

06 November 2009
EBLEX

UK - 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.

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 per cent) on the previous year against some 86,000 (4 per cent) 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 per cent) fewer beef calves were produced; which, in turn, led the proportion of beef-sired stock to fall back to less than 70 per cent 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 per cent of all calves registered in 2008/9, ahead of Charolais at 10 per cent and Aberdeen Angus at 9 per cent.

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.

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