Calf registrations show rise in share of native beef breeds

The number of native beef calf registrations rose on 2020 levels during the first half of the year, according to British Cattle Movement Service statistics.

Registrations of continental breeds remained in decline. Despite a year-on-year decrease, Limousin crosses have remained the largest breed overall.

AHDB analyst Hannah Clarke said: “Continental breeds such as Limousin, Charolais and Simmental have shown continued steady declines, while numbers of native breeds like Aberdeen Angus, Hereford and Beef Shorthorn have grown. British Blue crosses have also grown in number.”

See also: Why Australian cattle breeders have competitive edge over UK

GB beef calf registrations – major breeds, January-June

Breed

2020

2021

Year-on-year change

Limousin cross

261,489

249,640

-11,849 (-5%)

Aberdeen Angus cross

222,222

235,124

12,902 (6%)

British Blue cross

124,352

129,808

5,456 (4%)

Charolais cross

121,771

115,878

-5,893 (-5%)

Hereford cross

75,398

75,092

-306 (0%)

Simmental cross

78,751

73,509

-5,242 (-7%)

Aberdeen Angus

45,871

49,311

3,440 (7%)

Limousin

41,636

40,940

-696 (-2%)

Beef Shorthorn cross

23,074

22,800

-274 (-1%)

Hereford

20,352

21,376

1,024 (5%)

Stabiliser

15,158

16,337

1,179 (8%)

Source: British Cattle Movement Service, AHDB

James Hadwin, who runs consultants JH Agri, said the shift to more native breeds could be down to businesses focusing more on grassland management and outwintering in order to reduce feed costs during the winter months.

“Supply chain schemes are also playing a part, with many industry schemes are asking for native breeds,” Mr Hadwin added.

“The 10 most common breeds in GB have remained relatively unchanged for the past decade, consistently making up 82-83% of all registrations during that time,” said Ms Clarke.

Beef supply

The latest British Cattle Movement Service figures show total beef calf registrations were up 0.2% year on year to total 1.08m head between January and June.

However, AHDB’s Hannah Clarke said: “The number of calves registered that would be available for beef production [dairy male calves and beef calves of both sexes, accounting for suckler replacements] actually fell slightly, by 0.6% to 1.19 million head.

Looking forward

“Overall, lower registrations of calves for beef production so far in 2021 [including beef calves from the suckler herd, beef-cross calves from the dairy herd, and pure dairy bull calves from the dairy herd], would suggest that fewer animals could be available for beef production in a couple of years’ time,” Ms Clarke said.

“The trend seems to be driven by falling registrations of dairy bull calves; registrations of beef calves [including suckler-bred calves and dairy-bred crossed calves] have been on a slight upwards trend over the past couple of years.

“This partly reflects increasing use of sexed and beef semen among dairy producers. However, if the dairy and suckler herds remain in decline, this could offset increasing registrations of beef-type calves somewhat.”

AHDB’s latest forecasts put domestic beef production in 2022 at 895,000t, slightly up on this year, but still well below 2019 and 2020. In 2023, it forecasts home produced beef at 906,000t – similar to the level in 2019.

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