Farm Ireland

Monday 25 March 2019

Calving dates pushed back by three to five weeks

Dairy calf registrations down by 13pc as farmers take no chances on fodder

Almost three in every four calves born within the dairy herd are now going for beef production
Almost three in every four calves born within the dairy herd are now going for beef production
Gerald Quain, ICMSA

Martin Ryan

The calving date in the dairy herd has been significantly pushed back by several weeks, after farmers faced extreme hardship with weather and fodder difficulties last spring, the latest official figures show.

Dairy farm representatives are putting the slippage in the calving date nationally for 2019 at three to five weeks, which was mainly due to a planned change by farmers in the sector.

The official dairy calf registrations are down by 13pc to mid-February, compared to 2018.

The ICBF registrations for dairy calf births have put the stats for the year to date at 277,742 compared to 319,733 for the same period in 2018, a drop of 29pc without taking into account the increase in the national dairy herd.

Last week 117,880 dairy calves were registered compared to 131,287 for the same week in 2018.

Gerald Quain, ICMSA dairy chair, said that the figures are broadly in line with the situation in herds generally.

"Following the fodder crisis in the spring of last year, farmers who didn't want a repeat of the experience took the decision to push back the calving date by three to five weeks to calve closer to grass for the average spring," he said.

"I am getting that message from dairy farmers all over the country because of the hardship and extra costs that they experienced last year.

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"They are trying to alleviate a repeat and delayed putting cows back in calf last year.

"Some cows were in poor condition coming into May last year and didn't hold to the first service, which has also contributed."

In the suckler beef sector, the latest figures show that the weekly decline in registrations is accelerating.

The number of calves are back 23pc for last week, compared to the corresponding week in 2018.

Peadar Glennon, secretary of the Irish Simmental Cattle Society, said that the numbers are falling, with the weakening confidence of breeders in the future of suckler farming.

"It is hard to know yet how much of a decline there is," he said.


"It will take a few more weeks to see where it is going. There is a decline in numbers, and some breeders may have put back the calving date. I think it is a bit of both."

The ICBF figures show that the year to date registrations for pedigree animals is down by 15pc, while the latest weekly figures are showing a decline of 16pc.

Registrations for last week were 1,400 less than the same week in 2018 while year to date pedigree registrations are 4,000 lower than last year.

Total beef births for the year to date are down by 11,000 or 15pc, while the registrations for the week ending on Friday last showed a decline of 4,004 for the week, equivalent to 23pc less than the same week last year.

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed has urged beef farmers to apply for the €20m Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot (BEEP) scheme before the deadline of Friday, February 22.

The one-year pilot scheme was announced as part of Budget 2019 in October as a method of supporting the suckler cow, through a payment of up to €40/calf once weights of the live calf and its dam are recorded and submitted to ICBF as per the terms and conditions of the pilot.

Mr Creed said it is aimed at further improving the economic and environmental efficiency of beef production.


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