Scottish calf registration data from the first third of 2020 show a year-on-year increase of 5 per cent putting them at the highest level for more than a decade.
In 2019, the proportion of the annual total calvings occurring in the first third of the year was 46 per cent compared to 44 per cent a decade ago, as the importance of the dairy herd has slipped.
Stuart Ashworth, Quality Meat Scotland’s director of economics services, said the trend explains some of the increase but that it is also a continuation of changed breeding herd management.
“Although the December census suggested a decline in the Scottish dairy herd of 1 per cent the number of dairy sired registrations in the first third of 2020 has fallen faster," he said.
“This suggests a greater use of sexed semen for breeding dairy replacements, increasing the potential to expand production of beef crosses from the dairy herd."
Native breeds now account for almost 30 per cent of all registrations, an increase of almost 50 per cent in the past decade.
The largest growth has been in Aberdeen-Angus sired registrations.
It will be 18 months before this increase in stock numbers will reach an abattoir. In the meantime, previous falls in calf registrations will continue to mean lower availability of slaughter stock in comparison to year-earlier levels for the medium-term.
“The number of one- to two-year-old male cattle in the Scottish December census showed a decline of 5 per cent, while heifers fell 1 per cent leading to an inevitable tightening of prime stock through 2020,” said Mr Ashworth.
However, slaughter data has shown an increase in prime cattle reaching Scottish abattoirs so far this year, with a 1 per cent lift in the opening five months of the year, while data from the price reporting abattoirs indicates this has continued into June.
On the beef supply side, the Irish processing sector has returned to full capacity in June after a sharp reduction in slaughter through April and May, potentially adding some competitive pressures to the overall beef market.