Ben and Yvonne Lee weren’t born into farming but have taken it up with vigour.
This reinforces the potential, highlighted by the Beef + Lamb New Zealand dairy beef integration programme, for dairy farmers to increase their income from calves by breeding to proven beef sires.
The manager, Doug Lineham, says dairy beef calves sired by a proven beef bull are worth on average $70 more than a mixed or straight-bred dairy calf (ie average dairy bobby $50, dairy/beef $120 which equates to $70 added value based on last season’s figures).
“Around 70% of NZ’s beef production originates from the dairy industry. Most dairy beef is produced from sires of unknown genetic merit with the resulting animals less desirable to rearers and finishers because their potential for growth and meat quality is unknown.
“Our message to dairy farmers this season has been to consider the potential benefits and increased income from breeding the balance of the herd (after replacements) to beef sires which have economic breeding values confirming the traits needed by dairy farmers: short gestation, calving ease and days to milk.”
Early indications are that many dairy farmers are taking advantage of this potential; AI and purebred bull breeders are reporting an increase in demand.
CRV Ambreed sales and marketing manager Mathew Macfie says the company is “getting lots of anecdotal comments about farmers who have changed, or who are thinking of changing, their mating plans to include more beef”.
“This led to us [launching] a new beef product – Fertabull Hereford short gestation semen…. Each straw of Fertabull semen contains the semen of three sires, giving a greater chance of getting a calf in calf because the length of time viable semen is available to fertilise the egg is increased.
Fertabull was launched in Northland recently.
LIC bull acquisition manager Malcolm Ellis also said the cooperative is seeing a noticeable increase in demand for the Hereford category of its short gestation length (SGL) range.
“Farmers will obviously be drawn to the extra milking days -- not as valuable at a low milk price but at a low milk price it all counts. Therefore the main driver for the increase in SGL Hereford use will be farmers looking to diversify their income stream. The milk price to beef schedule ratio suggests this is a wise move.”
Hereford breeder William Morrison said that while farmers in the lower North Island are only mid-way through calving, the potential to increase income from calving is being picked up and reinforced by strong sales of dairy/beef calves.
“The outlook for beef is strong for the next 24 months. Some dairy farmers I know are discussing rearing a few more calves for beef this year. Some are a bit nervous that there will be a lot more calves reared and that this may have a supply impact on the market, but once you show them the BLNZ graphic (showing the decrease in beef breeding cow and beef cattle numbers in the last 10 years) the logic is pretty clear that NZ could rear an extra 200,000 beef calves from the dairy industry this year, and we would still be below the number of beef and dairy-beef weaned calves produced in 2005.
“I also tell dairy farmers that NZ’s beef product is only a fraction of the global beef supply and that global beef demand is incredibly strong.”
Lineham said farmers can choose between artificially breeding tail-end cows to proven AI bulls, or buying or leasing proven beef sires.
“Semen from proven beef bulls is around 20% cheaper per insemination than high BW dairy semen and increased use of quality proven beef sires will have wide benefits in the dairy and meat industries:
Dairy farmers – easy calving, more days in milk, high quality calves worth around $70 more
Calf rearers/finishers – faster growing, finish earlier, high carcass value
Meat processors – improved supply of quality table beef.
“It’s a win-win for everyone and farmers should talk with their farm advisors or genetics companies about the best option to generate quality dairy/beef calves and increased income.”