Shrinking milk herd limits replacement stock availability

Published 5 September 19

The number of freshly calved dairy cattle going through auction markets* has been steadily declining since the start of last year. A shrinking milking herd and a smaller pool of replacement livestock is likely limiting supplies of available cattle.

12 month average dairy cattle throughputs at auction market

With Holstein/Friesian being the most popular breed of dairy cow in Britain, the move towards beef inseminations has impacted this segment of the milk herd more than the whole herd. At 1 July, the number of Holstein/Friesian animals in the GB milking herd declined by 4.1% (41,000 head) on the year, compared to a 2.7% decline for the whole milking herd.

The number of freshly calved cows going through auction markets classified as ‘other dairy breeds’ has been increasing in recent months. However, numbers are still relatively small, at around 240 head per month. Other dairy breeds have gained popularity in recent years, and now account for 44% of the GB dairy herd.

With the milking herd only expected to decline further, it is likely that the number of animals available in auction markets will fall further. Movement restrictions will also limit animal availability. As such, farmers’ options for acquiring freshly calved animals may be further limited, making insemination decisions on farm of growing importance to ensure their requirement for replacement stock is met. 

*Please note, these figures are based on a sample of auction market sales received by the AHDB. Figures represent commercial (not pedigree) dairy animals only.

Felicity Rusk