cows coming in for milking© Tim Scrivener

The British dairy herd has fallen by 2% in the past year – the biggest annual drop in four years, according to a report by AHDB Dairy.

The number of dairy females older than two years was 1.8 million head on 1 July 2016, down 37,000 head on last year.

Culling of dairy females over 36 months old also rose 13% to 37,000 head in the same period.

The net decline in the milking herd suggested that those being culled were not being replaced by youngstock and in the short term this could mean milk production would fall, said the report.

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Despite this, the number of youngstock (under two years) was still 15,000 head higher than in 2015 and 60,000 head higher than 2012. As a result, the potential to increase milk production through an increase in the milking herd still existed, said the report.

The price of cull cow grades one to four all rose in the week to 13 August, with grade one farm assured animals at 144.8p/kg liveweight. However, cull cow prices overall were down 1.6p/kg across the board at 106p/kg.

Total cull cow numbers rose 0.8% on the week to 2,730, a 2.12% drop on the same period last year.

Cull bull numbers were up 12.3% to 210 with a 3.5p increase taking their average price to 134.1p/kg, 5.2% up on 12 months ago.

In line with the decline in herd size, GB daily milk deliveries had also fallen. In the two weeks to 6 August deliveries were down 2.5m litres a day on last year, averaging 31m litres a day.