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Beefing up the value of calves

Dairy farmers can work with beef finishers to grow the value of Scotland’s calf crop.

The increased use of both sexed and beef semen in dairy herds has led to an opportunity for farmers to collaborate with beef finishers to create a new market.

Sexed semen is increasingly being used to improve dairy herds, effectively removing the lower-value black and white bull calf.

This has led to the opportunity to create a network of dairy farmers and beef finishers that can grow the value of Scotland’s calf crop, while at the same time diversifying income and improving margins.

Robert Ramsay, Senior Beef Consultant at SAC Consulting - part of SRUC, said: “Farmers are selectively using sexed semen to breed replacement heifers from their best cows, with the rest being put to beef bulls with very high genetic merit to produce beef calves that when finished, meet processor specification, helping to diversify farm income.

“Many large retailers are phasing out butcher counters, and the reality is that they’re looking for smaller 350kg carcase beasts, which produce a cut that is consistent for standard packaging, and the dairy bullock that finishes at 320kg to 350kg deadweight fits perfectly into that regime.”

Currently a lot of beef dairy calves from Scotland are sold at their lowest value to big finishers in England, resulting in farmers missing out on the Scotch Beef PGI premium.

However, with retailers such as Morrisons now supporting dairy suppliers to sell Belgian and British Blue cross calves into Buitelaar Production, the supermarket’s beef-rearing partner, there is a market opportunity for dairy farmers, who specialise in milk production, to collaborate with beef finishers to create a new market.

“While milk sales will always make up the majority of dairy farm incomes, the sale of beef calves is of increasing importance on most dairy farms and represents a 13th or 14th milk cheque,” said Robert.

“There are some really good examples of integrated supply chains for dairy beef in Scotland but there is a real opportunity to grow this business significantly in the future.”

For more information about how SAC Consulting helps livestock farmers to become more profitable and sustainable, visit our SAC Consulting pages.


Posted by SRUC on 29/03/2021

Tags: Dairy, Beef, SAC Consulting
Categories: Consulting and Commercial