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Beef production in Germany

General elements

GE figure 21

Germany is the largest dairy producer in the EU and after France, the 2nd largest beef producer, with 1.15 million T cwe from 3.6 million heads (14.7% of the EU production). Even if the production has known a drop by 27% since the 1980s, it has stayed relatively stable the last 10 years (figure 21).

In 2001, with the BSE crisis, beef consumption in Germany have experiences a drop by 30% compared to 2000. Since then, consumption is slightly increasing due to changes in eating habits (Thünen-Institut 2017a) and has reached 14.3 kg cwe per inhabitant in 2016 (GEB-IDELE 2016b).

Beef production in Germany is characterized by 2 types of animals: 45% of the beef produced (in T cwe) is from young bulls and 35% is from culled cows, both from dairy and suckling cattle (figure 22). The cattle herd hold 4.2 million dairy cows and 670 thousand suckling cows. Therefore, beef production is highly influences by the dairy sector with calves and cattle not required for the dairy production fatten to produce meat (Deblits et al. 2008).

GE figure 22

Foreign exchanges in Germany

Beef exchanges
GE figure 24

German exports have declines in recent years (-20% since 2009), stabilizing at 377.1 thousand T cwe (i.e. 33% of its production) in 2016 making Germany the 3rd largest European exporter after Ireland and Poland (figure 23). Germany main clients are the Netherlands, France, Italy and Denmark (figure 24). In contrast, imports have increased by 25% since 2009, with 406.9 thousands t cwe imported in 2016 mainly from the Netherlands, France, Poland and third countries such as Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil (figure 25). Due to different consumption habits, Germany import meat from young cattle and export meat from culled cows (Thünen-Institut 2017a).

GE figure 25
Exchanges in live animals

In 2016, Germany has exported around 706 thousands heads (+22% since 2009) mainly towards the Netherlands (80%) and Spain (10%). 94% of its exports concern dairy calves for slaughter.

Importation of live animals have known a significant decreased since 2009 (almost -60%) and stabilized at 63.3 thousand heads in 2016 (figure 26).

GE figure 26

Typology of the German herd

With 12.5 million heads in 2016, Germany held the 2nd biggest cattle herd in the EU. It is mainly composed from dairy animals (4.2 million dairy cows vs. 670 thousand suckling cows) (figure 27). The cattle herd has declined by 15% since 2000 due to the decapitalization in the dairy sector.

GE figure 27

Thus, the dairy herd has declined by 12% since 1990 due to the milk quotas and the increased in milk production but has stayed relatively stable since 2008. In 2016, there was 71,000 dairy farms in Germany, half of it located in the Bavaria state and 50% of the dairy cows held either in the Bavaria state or the Lower Saxony state (Figure 28). There is a high variability in herd size, with a quarter of the German’s farms owning at least one dairy cow (Thünen-Institut 2017b). The largest herds can be found in the former East Germany with 188 dairy cows per farm on average while in the former West Germany, the average dairy herd is 54 cows per farm. Nevertheless, the 15% of farms with more than 100 cows accounts for 50% of the German dairy herd.

GE figure 28

The suckling herd is composed mainly of cow-calf specialized farms. The 51,000 farms held on average 14 cows in 2014 (Stolz 2014), larger farm can be found in the former East Germany than in the fromer West Germany (32 vs. 10 cows/farm on average) (Delblitz et al. 2008). Between 1990 and 2000 the specialized suckling herd has been multiplied by 2.7 and has reached 820 thousand cows, yet since 2000, it has declined by 20%.

In 2015, Germany had 82 thousands farm with a fattening activity, 85% of those were located in the western part of Germany. 72% of the farms have less than 10 young bull and account for only 16% of the number of animal fattened in Germany. Young bulls are mostly fattened in specialized farms with 28% fattened in farms with more than 100 heads and 20% in farms with 20 to 99 heads. Those systems represent 6% of the total of farms with a fattening activity (Eurostat 2017). Most of the young bulls are fattened in the Lower Saxony state (Figure 29).

Young bulls are, for the main part, allotted and fattened indoors with a highly concentrated diet based on maize silage. Calves from dairy cattle are mainly sold to a fattening system at 14 days of age for the Holstein breed and 2 month of age for the Fleckvieh and Braunvieh breeds but some fattening farms prefer buying weaned animals (between 4 and 6 mo). Holstein bulls are slaughtered between 18 and 21 mo while Fleckvieh and Braunvieh bulls are slaughtered between 17 and 19 mo with an ‘objective’ live weight from 680 and 750 kg. Young bulls from specialized beef breed or crossed breed are bought by fattening farms at 6 to 9 mo (Thünen-Institut 2017b).

GE figure 29