Tighter beef supply forecast as calf registration falls

Fewer calf registrations combined with higher mortality in both calves and cows this year point to a tighter home-produced prime cattle supply in 2019 and 2020.

The latest British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS) figures show that 1.75m cattle births were registered in Great Britain over the first seven months of 2018.

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AHDB beef and lamb lead analyst Duncan Wyatt said this was a 1% drop on the same period 12 months ago.

The BCMS data also reveals a 2% increase in the numbers of dairy female registrations at 260,000 head, possibly due to the increased use of sexed semen.

“The vast majority of these might be expected to serve as replacements in the UK dairy herd,” Mr Wyatt said.

“Prime beef supply would typically come from the other three groups, dairy males and beef cattle of both sexes – although of course some female beef types will also become replacements,” he added.

Analysing the BCMS figures further, Mr Wyatt pointed out that calvings of dairy males were 3% lower in the year to July at 173,000 head, while 651,000 beef females (-1%) and 670,000 beef males (-1.5%) were registered during the same period.

“Together these mean about 20,500 fewer animals, either as supply or beef replacements were registered in Great Britain so far this year,” he calculated.

However, registrations are only a part of the story.

The long, wet winter gave rise to difficulties at calving time and unfortunately losses appear to have been higher than last year, Mr Wyatt added.

The BCMS data indicates that cow mortality on farm is up by 16-20% year-on-year, possibly due to complications at calving, Mr Wyatt said.

Also, post-registration calf mortality of dairy males and beef animals of both sexes was higher in the cold spring of 2018 than in the first seven months of 2017.

Added to an extra 22,000 cows slaughtered so far this year, the prime cattle supply in 2019 and 2020 is likely to be diminished, Mr Wyatt predicted.

He put down the additional numbers sent for slaughter to a combination of a lack of forage and an attractive clean cow price for the manufacturing beef market .