GB calf registrations have again fallen on the year, with overall registrations for the first nine months of 2009 revealing a 3% drop at 2.07m compared to the same period last year.

More worrying however, is the fact that the market survey report from the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board states that beef calf registrations fell by almost 7% on the year; beef heifer calf numbers fell by 6% and bull calf registrations were down by 7%.

In contrast, registrations of dairy-bred calves, which accounted for 29% of total registrations during the first nine months, actually increased by more than 7%. Dairy bull calf registrations showed the largest year-on-year increase, rising by 9% to 608,000 head, with dairy heifer registrations 5% higher in this period.

And as the number of beef cattle going through the system continues to fall, processors are having to look more at black and white bull calves to fill the shortfall in supplies. This is highlighted by the fact that in October, black and white young bull slaughterings at abattoirs in Great Britain were 12% above last year’s levels.

Not surprisingly, dairy bull calf prices have risen significantly at all auction marts with prices from January to October 2009 averaging £45 per head – £17 per head higher than during the same time last year.

More importantly, beef prices are remaining fairly steady with the GB deadweight cattle trade for the week ending November 14, for both steer and heifers showing a similar level to the previous week at 277.0p and 274.6p per kg respectively. The young bull average fell by a penny to 259.5p per kg.

Prime cattle, however, eased marginally on the week during the same period, with the overall average standing at 148.9p per kg, with steers cashing in at 150.0p per kg, unchanged on the week, whilst the heifer price averaged 154.7p per kg, down almost a penny on the previous week. Young bulls fell by 2p/kg.