December 2, 2011
Europe's cattle numbers across the land have dropped in the last year and further decreases are expected.
Data released by the European Commission shows the bulk of member states recording on-year dips in their national herds.
France posted a 1.5% fall in cattle numbers, with its beef herd down 0.4% to 4.173 million cows. That decline follows two years of relative stability in herd size.
Both dairy and beef cow numbers fell in France, while heifer replacements posted a 5% drop, which will have ramifications for cow numbers further down the line.
Drought conditions have been blamed for the dips as that as reduced the availability of fodder.
The indication is of a further decline in the French herd in 2012 as cow and heifer slaughtering are up 8% and 3% respectively on the year.
Germany has posted a 2% decline in cattle numbers. Its beef herd fell 2.5% to 699,000 cows, but dairy cow numbers remained virtually static at 4.185 million.
Overall cattle numbers in Italy fell 4.4% to 5.79 million. Dairy cows dropped by 7.2% to 1.718 million, while beef cows posted a 2.1% decline to 389,000.
The cattle herd in Spain at 6.048 million was down 3.7%. Dairy cows rose 1.7% to 851,000 in response to a higher milk quota, but beef cow numbers dropped 5.5% to 1.882 million. Higher feed costs have been blamed for that drop.
The Netherlands, Sweden, Poland and the UK were the only nations to report increases in beef cows. Numbers in the Netherlands rose 31.3% to 105,000, while in Poland they were up 30% at 153,000. Sweden's beef cow herd at 347,000 was up 74.7%. The UK's herd at 1.663 million rose 0.4%.
Analysts at the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board said: "The results of the recent European forecast working group for beef suggest that production in the EU is likely to decline by 3% in 2012 largely attributable to lower output in France, the UK and Ireland.
"Production in France is forecast to decline 4% as a direct result of the liquidation of the herd following drought this year. In the UK production is expected to fall 6%, as cow slaughtering return to a more normal level. A similar fall is anticipated in 2012 Irish beef production."
Census figures for the mid-year have not yet been lodged by Ireland. The last figures, for the year to December 2010, showed its total cattle herd falling 5%, or 314,000, to 5.917 million.