29 September 2000

Add value to dairy herds by exploiting beef semen

By James Garner

DAIRY farmers could use more beef semen in their herds, and earn themselves another £10/calf sold, according to the MLC.

The Commissions senior beef economist Duncan Sinclair told farmers weekly that there is more room for dairy cross beef in the manufacturing beef market.

And his colleague, beef scientist Duncan Pullar, said that if dairy producers took more care over their choice of beef sire and used semen from bulls with high estimated breeding values (EBVs), they would earn an extra £10/calf.

The issue of beef semen use in the dairy herd has become more important since the end of CPAS in July last year, said Mr Sinclair. He added that its use is increasing as dairy farmers try to redress the drop in calf values from £48 under CPAS, to £10 since.

"There has been a lift in young bull slaughterings in line with expectations and British Cattle Movement Service data.

"About 3000 calves are being registered a week and we are seeing a rise in weekly slaughterings of 1500-2000 Holstein cross beef bulls."

He added that the 4% drop in dairy cow numbers reported in the latest census reflected that more beef semen was being used; fewer dairy replacements were being kept, and some herds were dispersing.

But choice of beef semen is an area where dairy farmers are losing income, said Dr Pullar. "Many dairy farmers are creatures of habit and opt for beef bulls that they normally use and know give easy calving, but without great growth potential.

"All dairy AI companies produce their own easy calving figures from calving surveys, so these can be combined with good growth rate and conformation EBVs."

Using recorded beef sires with EBVs as opposed to non-recorded bulls is worth a £10 premium, said Dr Pullar. Calves with good conformation and growth rate sell well, and in a contract agreement, the finisher knows the sire is a good one.

Finishers with careful, concise management of young beef cross bulls can make a margin, said Mr Sinclair. "But there is a small window of opportunity and if bulls are kept too long they are difficult to market, with the risk of price penalties and extra feed costs."

However, he said many young bulls have been sold at 11-12 months old at 290kg deadweight, grading 0+ for conformation, which is better than many expected.

An 0+ is worth 150-155p/kg deadweight, and Mr Sinclair also expects manufacturing beef demand to remain high.

"Intervention stocks are empty and burger and mince sales are strong." &#42

Duncan Sinclair (left) and Duncan Pullar believe dairy producers could earn an extra £10/calf using high EBV semen.

BEEFSEMEN

&#8226 Use more beef semen.

&#8226 Choose high EBV semen.

&#8226 Manufacturing beef market strong.