21 January 2000

Give dairy beef help to lift quality

By Emma Penny

BEEF from the dairy herd is vital to meet market demands, but the cattle industry must co-operate to help the sector produce better quality beef and be more efficient.

Speaking at the BCBC conference, Peter Hambleton of Quality Calves said he believed that improving calf quality by using better genetics would help the entire industry.

"Improving the genetic potential of the calves we market means that the beef producer gets an animal which grows faster, will have better conformation, and be more marketable, and as a result, he will be prepared to pay dairy farmers more for it. This way everyone wins."

He said that using beef sires with good EBVs – particularly for muscling scores – helped. Calves from the firms Superior Sires programme, which commits dairy producers to using high genetic merit sires, are generally half a grade better. Committing to the scheme and better grading combine to give a £15-25 premium, said Mr Hambleton.

Quality Calves also runs a scheme where beef producers can order dairy-bred calves to certain specifications, with milk producers contracted to the scheme receiving a premium for their calves.

Results at JSR farms in Yorks, which finishes scheme calves produced using Charolais bulls in the top 1% for beef value, shows they are on-farm for 47 days less, fetch £32/carcass more and have a 2% better killing out percentage than non-scheme calves from unknown sires. "These calves finish more quickly, are worth more at slaughter and have better conformation than non-scheme calves," he said.

But he believed that where dairy farmers chose to use a beef stock bull, they ought to be much more concerned about its genetic merit.

"Unfortunately, many beef breeders, keen to get a sale, will pander to a dairy farmers needs and sell a bull that is inferior."

To address this concern, Quality Calves has also set up groups of pedigree breeders who will supply bulls to dairy farmers. Bulls offered must be above breed average weight for age, above average muscling score and average leanness scoring – and at a reasonable price.

He urged dairy producers to remember that they had a customer whose profitability depended in part on their breeding policy, and to believe that calves could again be a source of income.

"The industry must work together to improve the quality of beef from the dairy herd – it is needed, and it must be better."

DAIRY BEEF

&#8226 Improve quality.

&#8226 Premiums available.

&#8226 Select bulls carefully.