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Calf Registrations Down 8 Per Cent

15 May 2013

NORTHERN IRELAND - Beef calf registrations have dropped by almost 10,000 so far this year on 2012 levels, decreasing 8.3 per cent with Charolais and Limousine calf numbers down, according to the market experts at the Livestock and Meat Commission Northern Ireland.

Calf registrations in NI from January to April 2013 totalled 178,421 head compared with 190,748 head registered in the same period in 2012, write LMCni experts. This reduction of 12,327 calves translates into a 6.5 per cent reduction year on year.

If this information is broken down further there are some interesting trends which can be observed. Total beef sired calf registrations in NI totalled 107,527 head in the first four months of 2013 compared with 117,268 beef sired calf registrations in the same period in 2012. This is a decline of 9,741 head representing an 8.3 per cent reduction year on year.

Figure 1 displays total beef sired calf registrations from January 2011 to April 2013. Beef sired calf registrations in January 2013 were similar to those in January 2012 with 18,766 registrations but during February, March and April 2013 the number of beef sired calf registrations was notably lower than the corresponding months in 2012.

Meanwhile the number of dairy sired calves registered in the first four months of 2013 totalled 70,894 head, a 3.5 per cent decrease on the 73,480 head recorded in the same period in 2012. This decline in calf registrations in the first third of 2013 has occurred despite the results of the DARD Agricultural Survey in December 2012 indicating a relatively stable dairy cow herd and three per cent growth in the number of suckler cows.

The number of beef heifers in calf with their first calf in December 2012 totalled 59,200 head, an increase of six per cent on the previous year. The reduction recorded in calf registrations in the first third of 2013 is likely to be a result of some fertility issues experienced on NI farms last summer due to the poor weather and grazing conditions.

Some producers have reported cows calving later and a higher barren rate than usual in 2013 to date as a result. In situations where reduced fertility on farms has caused an increase in the calving spread there is the potential for lower weaning weights this autumn and delayed finishing as a result.


The number of cows slaughtered in meat plants during the first third of 2013 has totalled 28,157 head. In the same period in 2012 24,932 cows were slaughtered, an increase of 13 per cent year on year.The tight fodder supplies experienced this spring combined with the reports of higher than usual empty rates and relatively good cull cow prices are all likely to have had a role to play in the increased cow throughput and a reduced number of calf registrations.

The difficult production conditions this spring has also seen the number of cows entering the rendering plants increase as discussed in last week’s Bulletin. A total of 12,119 fallen cows were rendered in the first four months of 2013 compared with 9,387 in the same period last year. This increase by 2,732 head represents an increase of 29 per cent in the number of cows handled by the renderers.

It is possible that the reduction in calf numbers will carry through into 2014 due to the increase in cow mortality this spring combined with the increase in the number of cows slaughtered in 2013 to date. In addition to this the combination of the fodder shortage, the late spring and reduced grass
growth this year could result in more cows going to the bull with a sub optimal body score, with reduced fertility as a result.

Breed breakdown

Beef sired calf registrations accounted for 60 per cent of total calf registrations in NI during the first four months of 2013. These beef calf registrations continue to be dominated by seven breeds which accounted for 94 per cent of all beef sired calves registered during this period.

These are, in descending order of popularity, Limousin, Charolais, Aberdeen Angus, Simmental, Belgian Blue, Hereford and Blonde d’Aquitaine.

The proportion of calf registrations within each beef breed during the first four months of 2013 is displayed in Figure 2. While these seven breeds continue to dominate in terms of sire selection there have been some minor changes in the proportion of calves within each breed when comparing the 2012 and 2013 periods.

Limousin sired calves continue to be the most popular and accounted for 30.8 per cent of all beef sired calf registrations in the 2013 period, back slightly from the 31.9 per cent in the same period in 2012. Charolais sired calves are the second most popular and accounted for 24.9 per cent of registrations in 2013 to date. This is back slightly from 25.7 per cent in the 2012 period.

Meanwhile there has been a slight increase in the proportion of Simmental, Belgian Blue and Hereford calves when comparing the 2012 and 2013 periods.The proportion of Aberdeen Angus calves has remained constant between the two periods and accounted for 16.9 per cent of total beef calf registrations in 2013 to date.

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