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Dernière mise à jour : Mai 2018

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Beef production in Belgium

General elements

BE figure 30

Belgium ha 1.3 million ha of useful agricultural area. With 278 thousand T cwe produced from 911 thousand heads in 2016, beef production is an important part of Belgium agricultural production (figure 30). This production as decreased by 8% in volume since the 1980s and has remained stable since the 2000s. Beef production comes mainly from dairy culled cows and fattened young bulls (figure 31).

Belgian beef consumption is decreasing (-26% in the last 10 years) and reached 14.2 kg cwe par inhabitant in 2016. Belgium exports its large surplus of production (DG statistique – Statistics Belgium 2017).

BE figure 31

Foreign exchanges in Belgium

Beef exchanges
BE figure 32

In 2016, Belgium has exported 189 thousand T cwe of beef, accounting for 68% of its production. Exports have increased by 60% since 2005 (figure 32) and mainly consist of fresh meat. Belgium main markets are the Netherlands, France, Italy and Germany, those 4 countries accounting for 85% of Belgian exports. The Netherlands mainly import veal from Belgium while France favour cuts for processed meat. The remaining meat is exported to Middle-East, South Africa and Eastern Europe (Sogepa 2015).

Belgium imports have remain relatively stable since 2007 between 70 and 80 thousands T cwe of beef, mainly from the Netherlands, France, the United Kingdom and Ireland (Sogepa 2015).

Exchanges in live animals
BE figure 33

In 2016, Belgium has exported 116 thousand live animals (-27% since 2010) towards mainly the Netherlands (75%) and Italy (10%) (Figure 33) and has imported 180 thousand live animals (x2.4 since 2012) from The Netherlands (72%), Germany (17.5%) and France (9%).

Typology of the belgium herd

BE figure 34

Belgium is divided in two main regions: Wallonia and Flanders. In 2014, there was 21 thousand bovine farms in Belgium. The Belgian herd had 2.5 million heads in 2016 (-17% since 2000) with 531 thousands dairy cows and 457 thousand suckling cows (Figure 34). Since the 1980s, the dairy herd has decreased by 47%, compensated by the increased of the suckling herd which has been multiplied by 2.5.

Cattle population is distributed equally between Flanders and Wallonia. The wallon herd is mainly a suckling herd while the flanders’ herd is mainly a dairy herd (SPF Economie 2013).

Beef production in Wallonia

The agricultural production in Wallonia is dominated by livestock productions and more specifically beef production. There was 1.18 million heads in Wallonia in 2014 (-23% since 1990) (SPW-DGARNE 2015) with 275 thousands suckling cows and 209 thousands dairy cows (respectively 60% and 40% of Belgium herds) (BCZ-CBL 2017).

BE figure 35

Beef production is mainly located in the south of Wallonia in the Luxembourg region (figure 35). 90% of the production is based on the Blanc Bleu Belge breed characterized by well-conformed and lean animals (CRA-W 2012). Dairy production is mainly located in eastern Wallonia in the Liège region, rich in grasslands and in the north-west of Wallonia (Figure 35 & 36). It is mainly based on the Holstein breed.

In 2014, there was almost 9 thousand bovine farms in Wallonia 5.5 thousand owning dairy cows and 7.2 thousands owning suckling cows. Bovine production, both dairy and beef, are getting more and more specialized with fewer yet larger farms with an average of 133 heads per farm in 2015 (vs. 95 in 2000). Moreover, indoor breeding has developed over the last few years (SPW-DGARNE 2015).

BE figure 36

Specialized dairy farms have on average 71 dairy cows with only 10% of the farms owning more than 120 cows. On average 68% of the UAA is in permanent grasslands (Cellule d’information lait 2017).

Most suckling farms in Wallonia are cow-calf holdings, the fattening being less and less done on the farm of origin. Lean animals (either cows, heifers, calves or young bovines) are fattened in specialized farms (SPF Economie 2013).