We are seeing an increasing number of beef clients looking to source quality rearing calves directly from dairy farmers, to reduce the risks of disease and low colostrum intake associated with buying from unknown sources at market. However, a common complaint is that dairy farmers are choosing their beef AI sires based on the limited criteria of gestation length and calving ease. The new Dairy Beef Index https://www.icbf.com/wp/?page_id=12504 recently introduced by the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF), includes carcass weight and quality traits alongside calving ease and gestation length. The ICBF website provides a wealth of further data used in calculating this index.
This information could be very powerful in enabling dairy farmers to work with beef calf customers in producing more desirable calves based on genetics rather than cosmetics, without risking difficult calvings or longer gestations.
On my own dairy farm, I am working with a calf customer who has had an input into our beef bull choices for 2019 service. We are also continually blood testing calves to ensure sufficient colostrum intake. When these decisions come to fruition in around 3 years’ time, we hope to benchmark the financial and physical results of these decisions against a group of similar farmers within our beef discussion group, as well as a direct comparison of individual animal performance within the beef farmer’s business.
With the likely increase in uptake of sexed semen by dairy farmers over the next few years, the supply of beef calves from dairy farms will only increase. Using better genetics and working with calf customers will be important in positioning yourself at the top of a marketplace which may be oversupplied in the coming years.
Contact Tom at firstname.lastname@example.org or your local FCG office, for more information.