GB Dairy Herd Contraction

UK - The overall GB dairy herd fell by 1.6 per cent (46k head) between the start of 2016 and the start of 2017, according to data from BCMS. This is the largest year-on-year decline recorded for a number of years.
calendar icon 16 February 2017
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Breaking the data down by age group gives us a better idea of the dynamics at play, and also an indication of what might happen over the coming years.

The number of older animals (aged over 8.5 years) has fallen by 9.9 per cent, removing 14k head from the herd. The loss of animals in this age category has accelerated recently, despite an improvement in overall milk prices.

The prime dairy herd (aged from 3 to 4.5 years old) also fell, down 27k (4.7 per cent). Again, we’ve seen an acceleration in the losses of these animals across the year. For example, back in April 2016, we were recording year-on-year increases for animals 4 to 4.5 years old. The drop in the milking herd is a sign the industry has reacted to market signals and reduced supply.

Looking ahead, there has been an increase in the number of 12-30-month-old animals coming through the herd, which brings the potential for an increase in milk production over the next 6-12 months.

However, there has been a large decline in the under 12-month-olds, down 29k (5.8 per cent), making the longer-term position look less rosy. This backs up previous analysis showing the movement from dairy to beef inseminations and brings into question the longer-term expansion potential for GB milk.

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