As of July 2018, the GB milking herd is down 23,000 head (1.3%) on the year according to BCMS data. The herd has shrunk by 3.4% since the beginning of 2016, initially as a result of the extended period of negative margins following the crash in the dairy markets in 2015.
Virtually all of the reduction in the herd occurred within the 4-6 years age category, which fell 4.1% to a 5-year low of 518 thousand head.
The impact of the drought on feed availability, supplemented by the rising price of dairy sired cull cows, is likely to have driven this change.
In terms of youngstock, the number of heifers aged 1-2 years declined by 7.3 % compared to the year earlier, although numbers under 1 year were maintained. An increase in the proportion of beef inseminations over the past 3 years continues to affect the number of potential replacements.