Beef-sired dairy cattle are becoming more common in Northern Ireland and are likely to add to the beef supply in early 2017, according to the Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC).

The latest statistics on cattle numbers in Northern Ireland show that there were 704,049 beef-sired cattle on Northern farms aged under 30 months at the end of November – a 6% increase on 2015 numbers.

According to the LMC, this increase is mainly due to a rise in the number of beef bulls being used on Northern dairy herds over the past two years.

Graph: Beef-sired calf registrations in Northern Ireland

Source: LMC

Source: LMC

During 2016 to date, some 108,676 beef-sired calves were registered to dairy cows in Northern Ireland, it says, a jump of 22% on the corresponding period last year.

Approximately 43,000 of these calves were sired by beef bulls.

Breakdown of cattle numbers in Northern Ireland:

  • 0-6 months: 102,361 head
  • 6-12 months: 236,816 head
  • 12-18 months: 119,428 head
  • 18-24 months: 181,988 head

According to the LMC, the increase in beef sired cattle numbers on Northern Irish farms should increase the availability of cattle for slaughter in the first half of 2017.

Meanwhile, the number of dairy-sired male cattle slaughtered in Northern Ireland during November stood at 85,319 head.

However the number of dairy-sired males in the 0-6 month and 6-12 month age categories dropped by 16% and 17% respectively, it says, due to decrease in registrations and an increase in exports.

The number of dairy-sired males on Northern Irish farms in the 12-18 month age category totalled 21,318 head, up 2.4% from year earlier levels, while in the 18-24 month age category there were 13,930 head, a 13% increase on the year before.

Irish cattle exports to the North fall

In addition, the number of Irish cattle shipped to Northern Ireland has declined by 56% so far this year on the same period in 2015.

Figures from Bord Bia show that some 21,956 Irish cattle crossed the border to the North this year, a fall of almost 28,000 on 2015 levels.

In previous years, Northern cattle buyers were very active around sales rings to secure Irish stores for further finishing in Northern Ireland.

But, since the introduction of Red Tractor labelling rules in the UK this trade has all but stopped.

This is further galvanised by the latest export figures, which show that just 447 Irish cattle were shipped to the North during the week ending November 19 – a fall of 923 head on the corresponding week in 2015.