Beef farmers in Wales could generate an additional £4,000 a year by getting heifers in calf much sooner.
Hybu Cig Cymru (Meat Promotion Wales) has found the average age of heifers at calving in Wales is 35 months, which is 11 months over the recommended age of 24 months.
It has pointed out that calving at the recommended age of 24 months could yield another two calves a cow over its life.
This could result in an average annual income increase of £162 a cow, which equates to £4,000 a year for an average 25-strong Welsh herd.
“The age at first calving has major implications for the lifetime production of a breeding suckler cow,” said Gwawr Parry, HCC industry development officer.
“The delay in a heifer’s first calving is usually due to the fear of calving immature, undersized heifers, but with the right management, heifers can, and should be run with a bull at 14 months.”
“This is a win-win situation because the benefits of calving younger include an increased number of calves per lifetime, overall considerable financial gain and at the same time, addressing climate change issues by improved on-farm efficiencies, thus achieving the greatest yield per hectare”
Gwawr Parry, Hybu Cig Cymru
The latest British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS) data shows that the average number of calves a lifetime is 5.4, with an average calving interval of 432 days. The optimum interval is 365 days.
Ms Parry said that as well as age at first calving, calving spread had a huge impact on calving interval.
Fixed calving periods aided significantly in hitting 365 days and anything that did not calve within the allotted period should be culled.
“This is a win-win situation because the benefits of calving younger include an increased number of calves per lifetime, overall considerable financial gain and at the same time, addressing climate change issues by improved on-farm efficiencies, thus achieving the greatest yield per hectare,” she said.
A recent AHDB Beef and Lamb project carried out on a suckler farm in Darlington, County Durham found it was possible to bring down the calving age from 36 months to 25 months by introducing a better ration pre-weaning which increased growth rates and reduced the weaning check.
Improvements to the ration after weaning also helped.