Producers of dairy cross bull calves are reaping premium prices compared with their pure black-and-white counterparts. Three- to four-week-old Fleckvieh bull calves have attracted prices of £300 a head, up to six times more than pure Holstein bull calves.
According to data collected by Geno UK, the market for cross-bred calves is currently strong. “We are seeing three- to four-week-old British Blue cross Holstein calves selling at £250-300 and the Fleckvieh cross calves are averaging £200-300, compared with pure Holstein bull calves that will sell at £45-55. Norwegian Red cross bull calves are selling for about £100 a head,” says Wes Bluhm, Geno managing director.
The carcass quality and shorter finishing times are typical reasons why these crossbred calves are attracting better prices than pure-bred Holstein calves. “We also have to remember the value of the dairy cross female calves as a replacement in the dairy herd,” he adds.
Mr Bluhm says when taking the difference in price of £250 between a Fleckvieh cross bull calf and a pure Holstein bull calf at three weeks of age, assuming 50% of calves born are bulls, this adds an extra £125 in value to the average lactation.
“Assuming an average herd yield of 7,500kg, this adds 1.66p/litre across the herd. Even for higher-yielding herds averaging 10,000kg, this premium calf price will add 1.52p/litre to the milk price,” says Mr Bluhm.
Mr Bluhm says he is working with one producer who has been affected by TB. “By cross-breeding Holsteins with Fleckvieh sires they are managing to maximise the value of bull calves, as well as breeding enough replacements for themselves.
“Others are enjoying the premium prices attracted from finished dairy cross-bred beef compared with pure-bred bull beef. In the case of the Norwegian Red, the finishing times are three to four weeks shorter, which adds to the profitability of this side of the business.”