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Potential for dairy farmers to increase income from calves

Media statement
16 July 2015

Potential for dairy farmers to increase income from calves


In a welcome departure from dismal news on the dairy front, farmers are being told that a simple change to their herd mating plans could increase their income from calves.

The advice is one outcome from the Beef + Lamb New Zealand Dairy Beef Integration Programme which is looking at the impact of using good beef genetics in a dairy beef supply chain.

The aim of the AgResearch managed research is to confirm the impact the strategy could have for dairy farmers and others in the supply chain. Early results show clear advantage – and potential additional profit - to dairy farmers from the use of proven beef genetics.

Dairy Beef Integration Programme Project Manager, Doug Lineham, says dairy beef calves sired by a proven beef bull are worth on average around $70 more than a mixed or straight-bred dairy calf (ie average dairy bobby $50, dairy/beef $120 which equates to $70 added value based on last season’s figures).

“Around 70% of New Zealand’s beef production originates from the dairy industry. Most dairy beef is produced from sires of unknown genetic merit with the resulting animals less desirable to rearers and finishers because their potential for growth and meat quality is unknown.

“At the same time there is a shortage of quality table beef for domestic and international consumption.”

The AgResearch Scientist who is managing the five year trial on the Crown Research Institute’s Tokanui dairy farm, Dr Vicki Burggraaf, says the overall aim of a successful mating period is for the herd to get in-calf within eight to 12 weeks – this ensures the dairy farm achieves peak production in a similar time pattern the following year.

“New Zealand dairy farmers traditionally mate cows to high BW AI sires for the first four to six weeks of mating to create herd replacements. The balance of the herd is then usually mated to run or natural mating bulls. The calves which result from natural mating are generally sold at four days old to rearers or processors.
“The tendency has been to breed tail-end cows to Jersey or crossbred cows out of a perception that putting beef over dairy can lead to difficult calvings. However, the attributes of proven beef sires are published so farmers can select for such things as easy calving, short gestation etc.”

The Beef+Lamb Dairy Beef Integration Programme is encouraging dairy farmers to consider mating ‘tail end’ cows to proven beef sires to generate additional income and to bolster New Zealand’s beef industry.

Farmers can choose between artificially breeding tail-end cows to proven AI bulls, or purchasing or leasing proven beef sires.

Semen from proven beef bulls is around 20% cheaper per insemination than high BW dairy semen.
Doug Lineham says increased use of quality proven beef sires will benefit
o Dairy farmers – easy calving, high quality calves worth around $70 more
o Calf rearers/finishers – faster growing, finish earlier, high carcass value.
o Meat processors – improved supply of quality table beef

“It’s a win-win for everyone and farmers should talk with their farm advisors or genetics companies about the best option to generate quality dairy/beef calves – and increased income – this spring.

Ends

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