Decline of calf births in Ireland

by Editor
Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Over the past few years, there has been strong growth in the number of calves being born in Ireland, with registrations rising by almost 100,000 head (+5.0%) in 2011, followed by a further increase of 115,000 head (+5.5%) last year. However, recent analysis of the Department of Agriculture’s Animal Identification and Movement (AIM) database reveals a fall in registrations to-date this year in comparison with 2012 levels.

For the first 6 months of this year, a decline of 47,000 head (–2.6%) was observed in total calf registrations. It is very interesting to note that the number of calves born which were bred from dairy sires actually increased by 36,000 head (+5.5%). During the same period, the number of calves sired by a beef breed recorded a drop of 83,000 head (–7.3%). This reflects reduced calvings by suckler cows, along with fewer dairy cows being crossed with beef bulls.

The continued increase in dairy-bred calves reflects optimism among dairy producers who are intending to expand their herds. Replacement heifers born this spring will most likely calve in 2015 to coincide with the abolition of milk quotas.

In view of Food Harvest targets, there will be concern among the Irish beef sector regarding future supplies of quality beef animals. Following the fodder shortage earlier this year, culling rates increased significantly on suckler and dairy herds, as did on-farm mortality. Dairy producers have mostly been in a favourable position to recover, since they generally have a positive cash-flow and have ample numbers of replacement heifers coming on-stream, in comparison with suckler herds.