Dairy farmers could earn up to an additional 1.7p/litre by finishing dairy bull calves through a new rose veal beef scheme.

The scheme, run by meat and livestock processor Buitelaar Production and in partnership with national feed manufacturer NWF Agriculture, will offer dairy farmers a minimum underwritten price for dairy bull calves when animals first go into production, with the farmer paid directly for the cattle at slaughter based on a simple, flat pricing grid.

The launch is the result of an increasing demand for rose veal, with Buitelaar wishing to increase the number of calves slaughtered a week from 250 to 750 a week over the next 18 months to meet supply agreements.

Real veal costs

  • Cost of calf – £75
  • Cost of milk (£1,575/t) 25kg – £39
  • Cost of calf – £75
  • Feed (£200/t) 1.6t – £320
  • Straw – £40
  • Vet/med – £20
  • Total: £494

Speaking at the launch last week, NWF’s Simon Harper said: “This unique partnership means farmers are given the expertise to grow the cattle and can contract feed prices for the period the animals are in production. This helps remove the risk to producers as they know how much they are going to receive for the calves as a minimum and how much is required to feed right at the start.”

Calves sold must meet a finishing weight of 420kgs and no animals are accepted for rose veal 
after 12 months of age. Any animals over 12 months, but under 14 months, will be processed under the Buitelaar Select Scheme and will be classified as bull beef.

Adam Buitelaar of Buitelaar Production said the system opened up opportunities for farmers. “Finishing bull calves not only converts a by-product into a saleable product, but it can also utilise labour on farm, is low risk due to the underwriting and quick turnaround, and is part of an integrated supply chain that provides security.

Fat rose figures

  • 220kg carcass sold at £3.20/kg – £704
  • Kill charge – £13.65
  • Transport – £20
  • Total: £670.35

“A lot of farmers have empty sheds over the summer, so why not make money from that shed by rearing bull calves,” asked Mr Buitelaar. “We guarantee to take calves on contract under three months old as long as we have been supplied the ear tag number. Underwriting the prices offers farmers security and we try not to change the price up or down too often,” he said.

There are three options for farmers wishing to rear bull calves:

  • Farmer grows own or bought-in calves from birth to slaughter at 10.5 months of age
  • Farmer grows calves to 12 weeks old (120kgs liveweight) and they’re transferred to a fattener
  • Fattener receives 12-week-old calves and fattens to 10.5 months (420kg).

Although farmers are not restricted to only feeding one type of blend or product, the diets do need to be cereal based because no grass-based products can be fed to animals supplying the rose veal scheme as it can make the meat go red and fat yellow.

Mr Harper explains: “Dairy bull calves need to be pushed right at the start and up to 420kgs will be growing more than they are eating. After this weight they will be eating more than they are putting on.”

Dairy farmer costings

dairy farmer costings


See more: Rearing dairy bull calves