12 April 2002

A market for all calves in south-west scheme

Securing a market for all

calves not required for

home-rearing on dairy farms

is being made possible

through a scheme in the

south-west, milk producers

were told at a meeting in

Exeter, Devon, last week.

John Burns reports

GUARANTEED-PRICE forward contracts to take all calf crop from dairy farms not required for home-rearing are being offered by Mole Livestock Initiative, a subsidiary of the West Country supply co-op Mole Valley Farmers.

MLI development manager Richard Jones said the calf supply for Britains beef industry was in jeopardy. Numbers continued to fall because of the reducing dairy and beef cow population and many calves still being shot at birth, in the belief they were worthless.

"MLI feels there is a big opportunity to develop co-ordinated calf marketing schemes further in coming months. We are prepared to set up a scheme to cover costs and a small return. We also want to talk to rearers prepared to rear calves to 16 weeks."

While making it clear there were no fortunes to be made out of rearing dairy-bred bulls for beef, he believed it was possible to negotiate a modest return for everyone in the production chain. Success involved minimising costs at every stage, and above all meeting customers requirements.

There was a definite demand for intensive bull beef, providing it was fully traceable and met the specifications on carcass weight and fat cover, he said.

MLIs main customer for black-and-white bull calves was Meatgold, a long-established production company with good relationships with retailers, including McDonalds.

"Meatgold want large groups of fully traceable calves reared to a strict specification of 140-160kg at 14-16 weeks on straw and concentrates." But MLI could also take young calves – for placement in rearing units working with MLI – for sale to Meatgold later, or to an increasing number of local finishers wanting beef cross calves, said Mr Jones.

To encourage producers not to shoot calves at birth, forward fixed price contracts were being developed. These would guarantee to take a farms complete crop of calves, including beef cross heifers and bulls. All calves would be collected, graded at an MLI collection centre and paid according to grade.

Rejects considered unsuitable for rearing would be sent for slaughter immediately and paid for at realisation, less costs. But MLI was not prepared to forward-contract to take only beef cross heifers and black-and-white bulls, leaving beef-cross bulls to be sold elsewhere.

MLI services also include contract-rearing of calves to a buyers specification, which could include breed, sex, feed, and vaccination programmes. &#42

A modest return for everyone should be possible with a dairy bull beef scheme planned by Mole Livestock Institute.

&#8226 Forward-price contracts being developed.

&#8226 Tight rearing spec.