NORTHERN IRELAND – Beef-sired calf records are illustrating the contrasting fortunes of the beef and dairy herd, as a rise in traditional breeds has helped calf numbers recover.
More calves are coming from the dairy herd as the sector grows, while meanwhile, beef numbers contract, says the Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC).
This means more calves are being sired by Hereford and Angus, the preferred breed for dairy sweeper bulls, and a consequent drop in numbers of calves sired by Limousine, Charolais and Simmental.
Dairy’s greater influence is showing in the seasonality of the births. Fewer registrations are happening early in the year and more at autumn.
Limousin remains the country’s most popular breed, accounting for 30 per cent of beef-sired calf births last year, down from 32 per cent in 2013. Charolais and Simmental were at 26 per cent and seven per cent, both down slightly.
A rise in traditional breeding was seen as Aberdeen Angus and Hereford lifted to 17 per cent and six per cent, by one and two per cent respectively.
The figures, which appear in a Meat and Livestock Commission Bulletin, reflect, as well as the positive trend dairying is seeing, premium prices for traditional breeds.
“For example, suppliers belonging to Aberdeen Angus schemes receive an attractive premium in the market. Likewise, Hereford bonuses have increased sharply in recent years,” said an LMC spokesperson.
“These trends will have encouraged more calf producers, both dairy and suckler, to select Angus or Hereford bulls.”
Commission figures also show a rise in Belgian Blue sired calves, but this is largely down to a growing dairy herd.
The result is a recovery in beef-sired calf births following difficult production conditions in the winter of 2012 and spring of 2013. Calvings plummeted eight per cent at this time.
Summarising the implications for the future, the LMC said: “These changes will potentially have an impact on the market generally over the next 2-3 years, particularly the seasonal supply of cattle.”
“With more of these traditional breeds coming forward for slaughter, it remains to be seen what impact, if any greater availability has on the premiums available in the market.”