A change appears to be happening at farm level as there has been a noticeable drop in the number of beef calves born on Irish farms this year. By Seán Cummins.
The latest figures from the ICBF show that close on 380,000 beef calves have been registered on Irish farms so far this year.
This is a marked drop on the number registered during the corresponding period in 2016.
Beef calf registrations stood at 400,794 during the same period in 2016 – almost 21,400 head or just over 5% higher than current levels.
One of the reasons for this fall could have been the decline in the suckler herd, but it must be noted that it is still relatively early in the year and many more beef calvings will occur as the year progresses.
Figures from the CSO show that there were 11,200 fewer suckler cows in Ireland in December 2016 than the same month in 2015.
This reduction is likely to have lead to fewer beef births occurring on Irish farms.
However, at the same time, there has actually been an increase in the overall number of calves registered, with combined dairy and beef births up by 0.6% or 8,873 head.
This increase has been driven by an expanded dairy herd, which has seen calf registrations jump by 30,244 head (+3%) on 2016 levels.
And there is still scope for a further increase in dairy calf births, as an additional 55,300 dairy cows were present on Irish farms last December when compared to the same month in 2015.
Given that a large portion of these cows are going to produce a calf this year, calf births on Irish dairy farms could increase once more in 2017.
Last year, an additional 47,570 calves were registered on Irish farms – with over 63% of these calves being registered as dairy births.
Figures from Teagasc also show that milk production on Irish farms is expected to increase by 6% in 2017. This follows an estimated increase of 5% in 2016.