Farm Ireland

Saturday 20 January 2018

Fall in suckler cow herd confirmed by AIM data

Joe Healy

The drop in suckler cow numbers has been confirmed by recent figures from the Department of Agriculture's Animal Identification and Movement (AIM) database.

The latest data shows that the number of beef calves registered in the first nine months of the year declined by over 81,000hd (-6.3pc) compared to the same period last year.

The main factor contributing to the fall in beef calves is the considerable decline in Ireland's suckler herd in comparison with previous years. Further analysis of the data suggests that calf registrations to suckler cows have fallen by more than 65,000 (-7.5pc) compared to 2012.

The drop in numbers has been attributed, in part, to higher culling rates in the suckler herd this year, resulting in an estimated 25,000 (+18pc) additional cows being slaughtered at meat plants.

In addition, on-farm mortality figures were slightly higher in the early part of the year, when a few more cows were lost as a result of fodder-related difficulties.

However, another key factor in the decline in the national suckler herd has been a slowdown in the number of beef replacement heifers bred.


For the first nine months of 2013, only 147,000 beef-bred heifers registered a calf. This represents a decline of more than 31,000 head (-18pc) in comparison to the same period in 2012.

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In order to maintain the national suckler herd, an annual replacement rate of 200,000 heifers calving per year is generally required. However, this year's figure is likely to reach only 180,000.

The AIMS data reveals an overall decline of almost 55,000hd (-2.8pc) in the total number of calves registered during the first nine months of the year.

However, the number of calves born from dairy sires actually increased by more than 26,000 head (+3.9pc).

Irish Independent