Potential of dairy-beef integration confirmed in five year study

The final report of a five year study into the use of quality beef genetics in a dairy-beef supply chain was released recently, confirming the potential for dairy farmers to produce high value calves with minimal calving problems using proven beef genetics.

The aim of the Beef + Lamb New Zealand Dairy-Beef Integration Programme was to analyse and demonstrate the benefits and risks involved throughout the supply chain in order to increase the supply of quality calves to the finishing industry.

The AgResearch-led project, led by Dr Vicki Burggraaf, AgResearch farm systems scientist, was funded by Beef + Lamb NZ (B+LNZ Ltd) Mid-Northern Farmer Council with in-kind support from Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC) and Ezicalve (proven Hereford sires).

The release of the final report provides the detail behind preliminary findings released to the red meat and dairy sectors in early September.

Dr Burggraaf said the beef industry is becoming increasingly reliant on calves sourced from dairy farms, but the sires of these calves have traditionally been of poor or unknown genetic potential for beef production.

“The study demonstrated that using proven sires with high Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) for calving ease limited calving problems and those with high EBVs for liveweight produced cattle with higher growth rates.

“The use of proven beef sires with high EBVs for calving ease and liveweight over dairy cows has benefits for dairy and beef farmers,” Dr Burggraaf said.

The manager of the Dairy-Beef Integration Programme, Doug Lineham, said the findings “confirm what we’re seeing in the market where dairy farmers are receiving up to three or four times the value of a bobby calf for a quality dairy/beef animal.

“The detail included in the final report provides dairy farmers with renewed confidence that breeding low BW cows to proven beef genetics is the way to go for the future.“That change to their mating strategy gives them a range of options. They can sell the resulting calves to a rearer, at the yards or grow them on to 100kg if they have surplus land. And even if they opt to put them on the bobby calf truck, the dairy/beef calves will weigh out more than a straight dairy animal.

“There is a wide range of quality proven beef genetics on offer to farmers – from AI through to leasing or purchasing proven bulls. Grazing bulls is time consuming and resource hungry so it pays to ensure they are proven and will deliver a good result.”

Doug Lineham said increased use of quality proven beef sires will benefit Dairy farmers with easy calving, high quality calves worth up to $150 more than bobbies.o Calf rearers/finishers with faster growing animals which finish earlier and have a high carcase value, along with meat processors and consumers with an improved supply of quality table beef.

With the dairy mating season getting underway around the country, Doug Lineham is encouraging farmers to read the final report from the Dairy-Beef Integration Programme and speak with their advisors about the best option to treble their calf cheque next year.

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