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Beef Market Opportunities for Dairy Farmers

19 March 2013

UK - Dairy farmers in the UK have been urged to place more 21 day old native breed sired calves on to the rearing market.

The National Beef Association (NBA) said that dairy farmers could secure an important place in the new push to produce large volumes of high quality, high priced, beef sired by native breed bulls for top tier presentation at both domestic and export supermarkets.

“The accent in the fresh beef market is quite suddenly on the production of large numbers of grass fed steers and heifers, bred from Angus, Beef Shorthorn or Hereford bulls, that can attract retail premiums on the back of predictable provenance, taste and tenderness,” said NBA national director, Chris Mallon.

“Tesco is currently constructing a 2,500 head a week supply system for certified Angus cattle which is the biggest seen in the UK so far and The Co-operative has confirmed that from the beginning of April it will be on the market for 300 Hereford cross cattle a week.

“At the same time Morrisons is looking for more Beef Shorthorn crosses to feed into its premium beef scheme, Waitrose and M&S want to keep pace with the expanding market for Aberdeen Angus beef, and Waitrose is also committed to buying 300 Hereford cross steers and heifers a week too.

“Dairy farmers should be in no doubt that beef rearers will soon be clamouring for even more native breed sired calves and if they approach this opportunity professionally then regular additional income can be secured.”

According to the NBA the ideal approach would be to present well bred, well fed, well presented, 21 day old native-breed sired calves to an organised, well structured, buyer. At current market values suitable bred Angus cross bull calves are making £200-£275 a head, heifers £100-£180 a head, which is just about level with Limousin crosses, and only British Blue and Simmental cross calves make more.

“We anticipate that as the retail market for top-shelf beef expands the native breed calves that supply it will acquire more value in relation to other crosses,” said Mr Mallon.

“And on top of this there are calving and management advantages to putting native breed AI bulls over heifers or running a quiet native bred bull with their cows.

“But the bulls must be good ones that can breed heifers with carcases weighing more than 280 kg and steers killing out at over 310kg. There would be no point in buying a poor bull for £800 that produces heifers at 250kg and steers at 280kg because there is no market for carcases that are so light.

“Ideally calves would be produced against a buyer template, including a health plan, so they can be immediately integrated into established rearing and finishing systems. Obviously full colostrum intake would be essential and care would also have to be taken that the calves were prepared for high forage, and not high cereal, systems,” Mr Mallon added.

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