For an investment of 22 a head, including labour, dairy producers could be making more from purebred bull calves, as some rearers are willing to pay considerably more than the market average price.
That’s the view of companies involved in the Dairy Beef Initiative launched at the Dairy Event, which aims to encourage milk producers to rear more black-and-white bull calves.
David Neville of Volac International said these bulls can produce quality meat, but up to 500,000 are being disposed of – incurring disposal costs.
These could be tagged, bedded and fed colostrum, milk replacer, and concentrate for about 9 and labour at 10 mins a day up to 12 days old would be worth about 13, according to Volac calculations.
While the total of 22 is lower than the average market price for bulls, many rearers will pay considerably more, said Hermann Schwaezler of Beef Production Systems – one of the initiatives’ calf rearers.
Professional rearers with scale can rear such calves profitably.
He reckoned this meant rearing 1500 plus calves a year with one person on an all-in, all out system.
But the calves must be well cared for in this early period, said Mr Schwaezler.
“Rearers are not interested in a cheap calf, we are spending more on 12 weeks rearing than the cost of the animal.
We need an animal that can perform. Good health allows us to take them through, so they need colostrum.”
This must be for a minimum of two days, preferably three, explained Mr Neville.
Then calves should be fed on a teat-based system until selling to a rearer at 10-14 days old.
He also advised dressing navels within 24 hours, not marketing calves with any sign of scours, ensuring double tags were carefully fitted and animals were registered promptly with the British Cattle Movement Service.
It was also useful to tell rearers if calves’ dams had received any vaccinations.