Beef-Shorthorn animals© Tim Scrivener

A scheme has been launched that aims to increase the supply of Shorthorn beef going into Morrisons.

Buitelaar Production UK and AI company Sterling Sires are behind the initiative, which is aimed at dairy calf producers and beef farmers.

Farmers who sign up to the scheme will be given the option of subsidised access to quality Beef Shorthorn stock bulls and high-genetic-merit semen.

Dairy farmers will get a guaranteed and premium calf price for these Shorthorn-sired calves. Beef producers that finish the animals will receive a premium of 20p/kg, worth up to £76 a head for on-spec heifers and steers.

See also: Morrisons searches for more Beef Shorthorns

The programme is being driven by an upsurge in demand for Beef Shorthorn meat under Morrisons native beef scheme.

Morrisons is seeking to increase its weekly kill of Beef Shorthorn-sired cattle by 15% to more than 400 head a week in total. As a result, Adam Buitelaar from Buitelaar Production UK says the company is seeking about 10,000-15,000 extra Beef Shorthorn cattle for the beef expansion programme.

“Morrisons has been running its traditional beef scheme for the past couple of years. It always favoured Beef Shorthorn, but with only so many being on the ground, it has been open to everything.

“We have made an undertaking to Morrisons to increase its dependable supply of Shorthorn beef and enable it to fulfil as yet unsatisfied demand from customers.”

Mr Buitelaar says Beef Shorthorn accounts for 40% of all beef sold through Morrisons’ Traditional Beef scheme, adding: “We would like to boost that number if possible.”

Option for dairy farmers

Dairy farmers will be expected to produce a minimum 50kg Shorthorn-sired calf, ideally between 55-60kg, with adequate colostrum status. Calves will be collected weekly at 14-28 days old before being reared and finished through the Buitelaar network of contracted producers. Bi-weekly collections are also available for TB-hit herds.

The price paid for dairy calves will be in line with that of the Buitelaar price paid for Aberdeen Angus bull calves, which currently ranges from £200-£300 a head.

Option for beef farmers

If suckler-cow farmers wish to join the scheme they must take their animals through to finishing, although the scheme is also open to beef finishers sourcing Beef Shorthorn stores.

To qualify for the Morrisons premium, finishers must meet a target carcass specification of 260-380kg deadweight at 14-26 months old, classified O+ and better, at 4L or 4H fat class.

As the programme expands, Mr Buitelaar also foresees an opportunity for additional rearers and finishers to join the company’s network, providing they commit to the scheme long term.

The genetics on offer

Farmers can use their own bulls, but a number of Beef Shorthorn bulls are available on lease to dairy farms at a cost of £600/year for two years. Farmers can also choose to pay a direct debit of £12/week. At the end of the two years, a replacement younger bull will be available to continue the programme.

Paul Westaway, general manager at Sterling Sires, which is sourcing the sires, says: “Natural service is still a big part of the industry. With current cashflow constraints, finding £3,000-5,000 is a challenge.

“We have put this system in place by agreeing to sell calves back to Buitelaar. We will ensure farmers always have a workable bull on the farm, but it remains the property of Buitelaar.”

Mr Westaway says each bull will have elite health status, having passed tests for TB, Mycoplasma bovis and Johne’s, and will be vaccinated for BVD, IBR and leptospirosis. If the bull encounters any issues with lameness or infertility, he will be replaced. To reduce disease spread, the bull is sent to slaughter after being used in the herd.

Farmers on the programme will also have priority access to semen from one of the UK’s highest-genetic-merit Beef Shorthorn, Tofts Wing Commander, available through Sterling Sires.

“We want to encourage AI as well because AI allowed us to use the real superstar bulls,” says Mr Westaway.

Farmers interested in joining the scheme can email Katrina Okane or call Buitelaar on 00 353 59 9162588.