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Cattle & Calve Numbers Continue to Fall in Wales

09 March 2012

WALES, UK - The total number of cattle and calves continues to fall – down 2.5 per cent on the equivalent figure from December 2010, according to the December 2011 Survey of Agriculture, by National Statistics Wales.

There is some difference within this overall trend between dairy and non-dairy breeds. The number of dairy females aged two years and over fell by just under two per cent whilst the number of non-dairy females in the same age group fell by over five per cent.

This means that the number of pigs in Wales at December 2011 (25,600) has more than halved since December 2000 (65,200).

The total number of cattle and calves has fallen by over 10 per cent since December 2000. The breakdown between dairy and non-dairy is not possible over the whole period because of the change to using data from the Cattle Tracing System (CTS). The data collected for CTS is different from what used to be collected via the December survey, thus not allowing direct comparisons.

Over the period 2004 to 2011 (the years for which CTS data is available) comparisons can be made. This showed an overall decrease in the total number of cattle and calves of 13 per cent. Comparisons of the number of females aged over 2 years (those animals used for breeding and of most interest) showed a smaller fall in dairy breeds (10 per cent) than for non-dairy breeds (14 per cent).

One possible contributory reason for this is that market forces have benefitted farmers not retaining as many females for breeding in the future and instead fattening more for sale for beef production. The switch from Single Farm Payments being based partly on numbers of livestock (in 2005) could be another contributory factor in the general fall in numbers.

Details of cattle births, deaths and movements are collected and stored on the Cattle Tracing System (CTS), primarily for use for animal health purposes. As with all new systems, there were teething difficulties when it was first introduced. Since 2004, however, it is possible to extract data which is felt to be comparable with December Survey estimates but only for total cattle and calves (definitional differences prevent it in any more detail). Where data from both sources is available (2004, 2005 and 2006), it can be seen from the chart above that there are differences between the two. The main reason for this is that the survey produces an estimate which is prone to statistical error. As the sample size for the December Survey of Agriculture is relatively small, these errors are statistically more likely to be larger than on a larger survey. In addition the CTS is intended to be a definitive record which should be more accurate than a survey estimate.

Further Reading

- You can view the full report by clicking here.

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