By Debbie James

Calving interval and age at first calving is hampering the profitability and efficiency of suckler beef production in Wales, says HCC (Meat Promotion Wales).

The latest cattle data shows that beef cows average 5.5 calves over a nine-year lifespan.

While showing improvement on 2016 figures, it can be enhanced to lift farm incomes, says HCC.

British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS) figures show the average Welsh suckler cow had a calving interval of 426 (61 days over a year) and first calved aged more than two-and-a-half years.

The ultimate age of first calving is two years old and, for maximum efficiency, a 365-day calving interval should be the goal.

Figures are however improving, back from a 1,019-day first calving age and a 427.8-day calving interval in 2016.

This means Welsh farmers have cut 10 days off first calving date and almost two days off calving interval.

HCC data analyst Glesni Phillips said the Farm Business Survey figures showed a “marked difference” between the most and least efficient beef enterprises.

Shorter calving intervals are a very important factor in business profitability, she said.

“Cattle prices have been strong in recent months, reflecting a long-term decline in supply as well as short-term factors such as the weak pound,” said Ms Phillips.

“However, continuing to address the key fertility issues as highlighted in the new BCMS data would benefit the industry more generally in terms of farmers’ bottom line.”