Top genes add to bottom line for beef producers
Agenda 2000, improving
dairy-bred beef quality and
organic sheep production
were key topics at this years
Bath and West Winter Fair.
Marianne Curtis reports
OPPORTUNITIES for improving quality and value of beef cross calves from dairy herds are considerable.
But producers should be under no illusions about the difficulties of making Holstein bull beef enterprises pay.
Nigel Young of Kingshay Farming Trust told producers attending the Bath and West Winter Fair, Shepton Mallet, that using genetically superior beef sires in dairy herds could add substantially to bottom line profits, especially for low yielding, low profit herds.
"For a 100-cow, 6500-litre herd, using high estimated breeding value sires can improve calf value by £10.50, taking account of an extra £1 a straw cost for semen. This amounts to an extra £504 profit for the herd, increasing to £960 when a £20 a calf premium can be obtained."
Mr Young admitted that EBVs were currently poorly understood. But he challenged dairy producers to promote the concept. "Make every effort to promote the advantages of high EBVs to everyone in the beef chain," he said.
But prospects for Holstein bulls are less rosy, according to Signet consultant Rob Shields. "Only producers with buildings written off, home-grown cereals and reasonable quality calves stand a chance of making money out of finishing pure Holsteins."
He calculated that in the absence of premiums, producing a 260kg Holstein carcass worth 140p/kg would leave a margin of -£36. "For finishers to break even, dairy producers would need to give them the calf and a cheque for £36," he quipped.
Mr Young agreed that for dairy producers not eligible for BSP, it is probably not worth finishing Holstein bulls.
Whatever the system, Mr Shields said there was room for improvement in technical efficiency.
"Some producers are keeping cattle too long in the mistaken belief that the heavier they are, the more money they will make." But cost/kg of gain increases sharply when cattle are kept too long, leading to lower profits, he warned.
Analysing feed and adjusting rations accordingly was also important, he said. "Protein content of barley can vary by more than 2% but few producers analyse it. Analysis offers chances to save money on protein where the level in barley is high, or increase protein supplementation where it is low."
• Use high EBV sires.
• Holsteins rarely profitable.
• Analyse feed.