26 March 1999

Caution is needed with Holstein calves

DAIRY bull beef finishing may become more fashionable when the calf processing aid scheme finishes later this year.

But for those thinking of finishing Holstein bull calves, approach the enterprise with caution, warns Signet consultant Ian Ross.

"A lot of Holstein bulls go to realisation, which means you dont know how bad the price is until you receive the cheque." This is the case for cattle of P class conformation, he adds.

The more Friesian breeding in the calf the better the likely conformation at slaughter. "But these are difficult to source," he says.

"Work out what your cost a kg liveweight gain will be. As a rule of thumb, feed efficiency of a dairy bull beef animal will be at least 10% worse than a beef cross.

"Expect to have variable costs of about £310 a beast including £200 in feed costs, £50 calf rearing and £25 marketing. This means you would need a sale price of 110p/kg for a 280kg deadweight animal to cover these costs. Therefore, do not pay anymore than £50 for the calf. This would give you a sale price of 128p/kg deadweight, roughly equivalent to 70p/kg liveweight.

"Theres a little bit of profit in it, but you are mainly working for the BSP subsidy of £109 in 2000. With this you will also have to cover labour costs of £20 and interest," he says.

Aid scheme

ABP York beef buyer Emma Andrews-Moynan says that the company currently processes little Holstein bull beef but has looked at it with view to the calf processing aid scheme being lifted later this year.

"This sector is producing for the mince and manufacturing market and this depends on displacing current imports.

"However, our figures show there is a profit before subsidy, as long as you can guarantee a cheap calf price." &#42