In recent years, total cow numbers in the EU have declined at a slower pace than in the past, but increased last year (2013), according to the European Commission’s summer 2014 short-term agricultural outlook.

It said the increased cow numbers resulted in lower meat production in 2012 and 2013 as fewer females were slaughtered. In parallel, the number of born calves increased, leading to a higher number of animals being fattened, and thus additional meat to come in the market in 2014 and 2015.

The report outlines that changes in the total cow herd are driven by a decline in the suckler cow herd by nearly 300,000 head since 2011, and a parallel increase of the number of dairy cows by more than 400,000 head over the same period.

The continuous decline in the number of beef cows, combined with the restocking of dairy cows due to high milk prices and the milk quota expiry in 2015, led to an 8.3% decline in total EU beef production between 2011 and 2013.

In the first four months of 2014, total EU slaughterings were still slightly lower (-0.2%) than the previous year, but this average EU result masks significant differences among Member States. The higher slaughterings can be observed in several countries, with higher beef slaughterings in Ireland (+13%), Poland (+12%), the UK (+3%) and Germany (+4%).

Yet, over the same period, decreases were recorded in other short-term outlook for arable crops, meats and dairy, either because the restocking process is not yet over or because of the ongoing decline in the number of suckler cows in other Member States.