Numbers of traditionally bred calves rising
BCMS data for pure and cross cattle shows that the numbers of Aberdeen Angus, Hereford and Shorthorn registered calves is rising. Limousin and Charolais still make up the bulk of calf registrations, despite a dip in numbers the last four years.
Meanwhile, traditional breeds such as Aberdeen Angus, Shorthorn and Hereford have seen a growth in popularity. Simmentals have remained steady, while Salers and British Blues have seen more calves registered to their breed. This shows a complicated picture in the Scottish beef herd, with multiple changes at play.
Strong demand for traditional, and Aberdeen Angus in particular, beef has led to growing numbers of these cattle. Suited to a more grass-based system, they fit farmers looking to utilise rougher grazing and reduce straw costs.
Herefords have jumped considerably in the last six years from 5,603 to 9,438 calves registered as pure or cross Hereford. Their smaller frames are providing brilliant figures when farmers focus on kilos of calf weaned to the weight of the mother. Furthermore, their smaller carcases from traditional breeds are chiming with abattoirs who are calling for lighter cattle.
The same move could be hampering Charolais and Limousin, with their larger frames. Nevertheless, with 22% of calf registrations to Limousin or Limousin-cross and over 15% Charolais or Charolais-cross, they are the leading breeds in the country and are very popular in the store ring. As farmers looking to maximise the kilos of meat produced per hectare, these breeds are doing a good job.
Simmentals have solid numbers, with around 13% of calf registrations. Salers have seen numbers grow steadily to over 11,000 calves registered as pure or cross in 2016. This may mask the true amount of Saler genetics within the Scottish herd, as it is a maternal-focused breed, meaning farmers may be less inclined to be recorded on cross calves’ passports. British Blue and Blue-cross saw their contribution to the national herd grow from 3% to 3.6% of all registered calves. This may fit with the fall in pure dairy breeds from 17.1% to 16.4%.
Over the last 10 years, cattle numbers have slipped from nearly 2 million to 1.8 million, but underneath the decline, there is a dynamic picture of breed changes to fit different production systems and customers’ specifications for beef.