7 September 2001


VIRTUALLY worthless black-and-white bull calves have made a margin of £108/head in a WIRS trial.

Selwyn Williams began the trial convinced that a profit could be made from supplying processors with manufacturing beef. His budget was based on an agreed contract price with Allied Livestock Marketing indicating that a margin of at least £100/bull could be achieved. Feed for this large-scale beef finishing trial is supplied by the Wynnstay Group.

Holstein bull calves are reared on a mix of whole milk and powder, and given access to Start And Wean pellets from five days to 12 weeks old. They are weaned at six weeks old, when good quality barley straw is introduced.

From three months they are fed a beef finishing compound until slaughter at about 530kg liveweight, by which time they have eaten 2.3t, and eaten or soiled 0.5t of barley straw.

Growth rate from birth to slaughter has averaged a little over 1.3kg/day. Some 25% of first bulls slaughtered had better conformation than specified by the contract and earned a bonus of 4p/kg.

The 12-week-old calves were costed in at £85/head and, after all slaughter and bull premiums were included, there was a margin of £108/bull to cover overhead costs. Currently, further batches are going through the system.

Dr Williams concedes that the margin is less than on traditional beef systems, but points out that having fewer grazing cattle leaves extra grass for other enterprises. &#42