DAIRY COW numbers fell nearly 3% in the year to June 2004, according to DEFRA‘s annual agricultural census.

Total headage slipped from just under 2.2m to 2.13m, but dairy heifers in-calf and under two year‘s old increased by almost 5%.

Kite Consulting‘s John Allen said the census did not reflect an overall contraction in the British dairy herd.

“It has more to do with the impact of last winter‘s cull. One of the ways we managed to end the year within production quota was by heavier culling of older cows.”

Mr Allen said it was important not to equate the 2.7% overall decline with the number of producers leaving milk production.

He said the national dairy herd could sustain an annual decline of 1-2% a year as genetic and technological gains meant production was not threatened.

Breeding pig numbers have also declined. Gilts in pig fell by 10% while sows kept for breeding slipped by almost 13%.