Beef-sired calf registrations in Northern Ireland fell by 6% in 2013, to 309,645 head, sparking concerns about tightening beef supplies.

The trend has continued into 2014, with a 5% drop in January registrations, to 17,826 head. Dairy-sired calf registrations also dropped in January, by 3%, to 20,610 calves, with male dairy calves down by 5% to just under 9,500.

“The continued decline can be partly attributed to reduced cow fertility in response to difficult production conditions from summer 2012 until early summer 2013,” said a report by NI’s Livestock and Meat Commission. “Poor feed quality and reduced cow body condition contributed to a higher barren and culling rate, meaning there are less cows on the ground to produce calves.”

This reduced production would now start to affect finished cattle numbers, it added. The number of beef-sired cattle on farms aged 12-30 months totalled 333,309 head in January, a 1.6% drop on last year, with dairy-sired males aged 2-20 months dropping by 12%. “Throughputs of prime cattle during January totalled 29,623 head, an 11% reduction on January 2013.”

Limousins continued to dominate the beef market, accounting for 29% of beef-sired calf registrations.

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