The total number of calves registered in Britain during the first nine months of 2009 fell by 3% to 2.07m head, according to British Cattle Movement Society figures.

The decline was mainly due to a 7% year-on-year fall in beef calf registrations – beef heifers fell 6% and bull calf registrations fell 7%.

In contrast, registrations of dairy-bred calves increased by more than 7% on the year. However, this group only accounts for 29% of total calf registrations. Dairy bull calf registrations showed the largest year-on-year increase, rising by 9% to 608,000 head.

EBLEX said tight supplies of prime cattle had resulted in processors looking to black-and-white bull calves to fill the shortfall in supplies. In October, young bull slaughterings were 12% above a year earlier and auction markets have reported higher prices throughout much of 2009.

Black-and-white bull calves averaged £45 a head between January and October 2009, well above the £28 a head in the same period during 2008.