Supply Chains for Holstein Bull Calves

Domestic supply chains for Holstein bull calves will only happen if retailers move on price, according to the UK's National Beef Association.
calendar icon 15 February 2008
clock icon 3 minute read

Well prepared Holstein bull calves moving off dairy farms are a sound buy for specialist rearers and finishers in the UK at a time when movements in the prime cattle price are rising, the NBA says.

However, retailers that have pledged their support for the domestic production of these black and white calves must substantially increase the deadweight price offered to make this new supply chain viable.

The NBA said that a scarcity driven, across-the-board, lift in all slaughter cattle prices at the same time as blockages to the exports of live calves to Continental veal units are holding up more Holstein bull calves for the domestic market.

"Significant cost increases for milk, feed, fuel, labour and buildings means that calf rearers/finishers would have to receive a price that leaves them with a profit for O and P grade animals slaughtered at 14 months of age to make it worth their while," said NBA director, Kim Haywood.

There is a lot of enthusiasm to get this new supply chain up and running but dairy farmers locked into milk contracts that do not allow the sale of calves to the export market have discovered very few rearers will take their calves because the costs far out weigh the returns offered by the retailers involved in the beyond calf exports project.

The dairy beef sector is already aware that there will be a much larger proportion of Black and White bull calves on offer because of the huge swing to use semen from dairy breeds.

According to the NBA there could not be a better time for dairy farmers to seek out more regular links with domestic dairy beef specialists but rearers will not purchase calves if they have to sell them for a price below the cost of production.

"Turning out a calf is a much better proposition for the dairy farmer than shooting such a calf at birth but the price offered must be enough to warrant the keeping and caring for all the calves, not just the better quality ones, if they are to move to a specialist rearing unit.

"And because dairy beef accounts for 55 per cent of all slaughter cattle, and from summer 2009 the dairy beef market will be dominated by pure-bred bulls instead of a mix of cross bred steers and heifers, it is important for processors to actively encourage their production otherwise they face a significant contraction in domestic supply.

"The most obvious, and effective, way to do this is to encourage the production of more Holstein carcases that can be sold for a profit because the present price being offered is not enough. If rearers and finishers feel confident about such encouragement they will begin finishing more Holstein bulls which from June 2009 will be an increasingly important source of domestic beef supply," Ms Haywood added.

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