Thursday, 03 November 2016 13:35

Dairy farmers breeding more dairy/beef calves

Written by 
Project manager for the Dairy Beef Integration Project, Doug Lineham. Project manager for the Dairy Beef Integration Project, Doug Lineham.

Dairy farmers are moving away from breeding bobby calves in favour of quality dairy/beef cross calves which are fetching record prices and in demand from rearers, finishers and the meat processing industry.

Project manager for the Dairy Beef Integration Project, Doug Lineham, says four day old bobby calves are fetching between $20 and $40 on the bobby calf truck.

“Contrast this to $150-$300 for quality dairy/beef bull calves and $70 to $150 for heifers on the open market.

“New Zealand is suffering from a shortage of quality table beef – the national herd of beef cows is now below 1 million so the red meat sector is looking to the dairy industry to help it meet demand.

“That’s a win-win for dairy farmers who, by simply changing their breeding strategy to include proven beef genetics, can treble their calf cheque.”

Doug Lineham says the sale of quality calves to rearers and finishers also avoids the stress of putting bobby calves on the truck.

“No farmer enjoys doing that; they would all much rather generate an animal which will go on to be reared.”

Malcolm Ellis, general manager New Zealand Markets for LIC says orders for beef straws is up more than 53% on last year.

“Farmers are certainly looking to diversify their spring income streams. We are seeing an increased trend to mate poorer quality cows to SGL Hereford from day 1. The resulting dairy beef calf will not only add the income diversification but also only allow the superior cows to produce the next generation of the dairy herd. This increased selection pressure has a significant positive effect on the rate of genetic gain.”

CRV Ambreed’s Sales and marketing manager, Mathew Macfie, reports a similar trend in demand for proven beef genetics.

“There has been a tremendous upsurge in demand this year, we had sold the same volume as entire last year half way through September and orders are flooding in. We are selling out of some lines but fortunately we procured wisely and will be able to fill all orders. At CRV we are seeing a change in approach by farmers, and we see a huge, mostly untapped, potential around genetics – we believe genetics will improve the way we farm in New Zealand.”

Demand for bulls on the ground is evident in the sales yards, PGG Wrightson’s national genetics manager, Callum Stewart, saying they are “seeing an increase in demand for quality beef bulls across the country. Farmers have been getting between $250 and $350 for four or five day old bull calves this year and between $70 and $150 (sometimes more) for heifers.

“We are selling yearling beef bulls specifically bred for the dairy market – short gestation, easy calving, low birthweight bulls which will generate a calf which will be in demand for rearing.

“We’re seeing yearling bull prices lift by $200 to $300 but dairy farmers are getting that value back very quickly.”

William Morrison of EziCalve Herefords which breeds bulls for heifers and the dairy industry says they are seeing “the strongest demand ever for quality bulls with Estimated Breeding Values, low birth weight genetics, good temperament and good health protocols.”

The demand is also being seen by other breeding companies with Matt Crowther programme manager for Firstlight Wagyu, producers of grass-fed Wagyu beef, saying they “are seeing strong demand again this season. Beef genetics are starting to resonate with farmers and we are seeing a significant increase in the number of dairy farmers interested in the price certainty and connection to established markets that we offer for mixed-sex four day olds and weaners.”

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