A new scheme has been launched to reduce the number of unwanted Holstein bull beef calves produced on dairy farms.
The Star Sires scheme set up by Somerset firm Blade Farming recommends dairy farmers choose from a list of eight bulls (see box), each of which should give either a good dairy heifer replacement calf, or a male dairy calf more suited to beef production.
Initially the scheme will focus on producers in south-west England where most Blade rearing units are situated, but managing director Richard Phelps hopes the scheme will expand across the country as more beef finishers and processors come forward.
“The scheme is by no means exclusive to Blade, as we want any calf purchaser to see that a Star Sire-approved calf should be a better Holstein beef bull calf and therefore create more demand for these animals. All we’ve done is to identify the best animals and make calf buyers aware of them.
“The whole objective of the scheme is to increase the value of the calves by improving the beef qualities that should benefit British farming and create a viable alternative to shooting for the dairy farmer.”
Beef from the dairy herd supplies over 50% of cattle processed in the UK, but it is estimated 2000 male Holstein dairy calves are killed each week, at or shortly after birth, mainly because their body conformation is not suited to beef production.
The scheme is free to enter and farmers who buy semen from Blade Star Sires will be supplied with an additional orange ear tag for the calves to help distinguish them from other breeds.
The initiative has been welcomed by Compassion in World Farming and the RSPCA, who say it will reduce the number of calves shot at or just after birth and provide a long-term benefit to the UK beef and dairy industry.
Blade Star Sires