The Co-operative Group has launched a calf scheme to integrate its dairy and beef supply chains.
The scheme connects Co-operative Dairy Group (CDG) farmers with beef producers to ensure calves from dairy farms are retained within the Co-operative supply chain.
It is part of a combined project between the retailer’s milk processor, Muller Wiseman, and its two beef suppliers, ABP and Dunbia.
The scheme provides an outlet for all calves from the CDG’s 200 dairy farms, including pure-bred dairy calves and native and continental-crosses.
The Co-operative’s senior agricultural manager, Ciara Gorst, says the scheme’s inclusiveness was a fundamental founding objective, so much so that it is even open to dairy farms with TB.
“Other retailers have calf schemes, but they have 10 farmers in it. This is actually an option for 200 of our dairy farmers, providing they meet specification.
“We do have a limited solution for TB calves and will endeavour to do our best to take them, but we can’t guarantee this. TB calves make up a very small percentage of the total number of calves we take through the scheme at the moment.”
To date 41 dairy farms within the group have signed up to the scheme since it launched last autumn.
Matt Hood, the director of fresh food at the Co-operative, says the overall aim of the scheme is to improve product quality and traceability.
“If we can get the age of the animal right and control the whole chain, we can come up with a product that is going to deliver every time.”
All Hereford-sired calves will go into the Co-op’s top-tier Truly Irresistible range, while the rest will mostly supply its standard beef range.
The Co-op says one of the primary reasons the scheme was launched is to address animal-welfare issues head on.
Dunbia supplies the retailer with 75% of its beef, so it has been integral in making the scheme a success, having invested in 16 dedicated rearing units.
The other 25% of beef is supplied by ABP and Blade Farming.