While all age groups of sheep have seen numbers increase on the year, total UK cattle and calf numbers remain relatively unchanged (-0.3%) at 10m head.
Both the dairy and beef breeding herds recorded marginal declines of 0.3% and 0.4%, respectively, to 1.89m head and 1.59m head.
The figures, sourced by Defra, show that during the first part of the year there were fewer dairy cows being culled, which could suggest a lower level of heifer replacements than last year. However, some dairy farmers are likely to have kept producing animals on longer to take advantage of recovering milk prices.
Meanwhile, the number of all male cattle on holdings in the UK for the June 1 census was 0.7% lower year-on-year, with those aged two years or more recording a greater decline of 2.6% (9000 head).
However, there is an extra 1.9% increase in the number of males between one and two years of age which are still to come to the market.
The number of female cows aged between one and two years increased by 1.5%. While some of those will be destined as herd replacements, others will find themselves in the beef production chain.
Looking further ahead, there were fewer cattle of either sex in under 12 months of age, indicating a modestly tighter supply situation going into 2019.
It was a point highlighted by Stuart Ashworth, head of economics at Quality Meat Scotland, who said that it is unlikely that the industry will be ‘awash with cattle’ over the next year, which in turn should help to maintain fairly upbeat prices in the prime beef sector.
“There are slightly more cattle in the supply chain now compared to during the summer, but supplies are still expected to remain tight right up until Christmas. We could see a seasonal lift in trade on the run up to the festive period, but I can’t see prices rising significantly,” concluded Mr Ashworth.