British Cattle Movement Service data reveals that cattle production performance in Scotland improved last year, according to Stuart Ashworth, Head of Economics Services with Quality Meat Scotland (QMS).
Over the whole of 2014, the number of calves registered in Scotland increased by 1.3% with the number of on-farm losses of calves under one year old down by 10% in 2014 compared to 2013. This, said Mr Ashworth, should help to boost beef supplies going forward.
“The detail of the BCMS data shows us that most of this growth in calf numbers came in the second half of the year. This may be a consequence of farmers moving towards autumn calving as a result of cow condition in summer 2013,” said Mr Ashworth.
Across GB as a whole, calf registrations in 2014 increased by 1.7% with most of the growth occurring in the second half of the year.
“Scotland’s calf registrations are dominated by calves from beef breed cattle, with 80% of registrations being beef-sired calves compared to 62% in England and Wales,” observed Mr Ashworth.
“When recognition is given to the fact that some of these beef-sired calves come from the dairy herd, then calves sourced from the beef herd make up almost three quarters of calf registrations in Scotland compared to less than 50% in England and Wales.”
When you factor in that fewer dairy-sired male calves were registered across Scotland and GB during 2014, beef calves made up a slightly greater proportion of total calf registrations.
“Although calf registrations have increased during 2014 it will be 18 months or more before these animals reach abattoirs.
“More immediately, the supply of 18 to 24 month old cattle remains under pressure in the wake of the decline in calf registrations in 2013 and the higher mortality rates that year as a result of poor weather conditions.
“The decline in dairy-sired male calves will also mean that there will be a reduction in dairy bulls aged under 16 months in the supply chain at the same time as two-year-old steer numbers are under pressure.”
Native breeds continue to gain in importance in terms of the numbers of calves registered and now account for 23% of all Scottish calf registrations. This has increased from 20% five years ago, and across GB as a whole native breeds account for 21% of calf registrations compared to 18% five years ago.
“The single most important native breed remains the Aberdeen Angus which accounts for 16% of all Scottish calf registrations,” stated Mr Ashworth.
“This puts the Angus as fourth most important breed in Scotland after Limousin, Holstein Friesians and Charolais. Add in the Simmental and these five breeds account for more than 85% of all Scottish calf registrations.”