26 January 1996

Cow numbers could drop 2%

DAIRY cow numbers are likely to fall 2% during 1996, according to Duncan Sinclair, economic policy analyst at the MLC.

The increasing use of younger animals with better genetics will be an important factor, he said.

Over the same period, clean cattle supplies are forecast to increase between 2% and 3%. An extra 40,000 animals are expected to be sold in the first half of the year, as the backlog of marketings from the end of last year comes forward.

The net effect of all this will be a reduction in beef prices of just over 2%, to average about 119.5p/kg in 1996, said Mr Sinclair.

Weaker prices may stimulate demand, although there has been a "slow but persistent" decline in beef consumption in the UK, regardless of the recent BSE publicity, added economic policy manager Mick Sloyan. &#42