Veal trials to deal with extra 350,000 calves from dairy herd
Trial results from the first batch of calves reared in a Johnstown Castle veal trial will be published next week at the Teagasc/Dawn Meats dairy calf-to-beef conference.
With the possibility of 350,000 bull calves being produced from an expanded dairy cow herd of 1.6-1.7m cows in the coming years, the trial results will give some indication of the best methods of producing dairy beef in the future.
The first batch of calves have already been slaughtered at eight months of age, and it is understood that the batch on grass and concentrate feed out-performed those on concentrate only, and were significantly better than those on grass only.
Around 300 calves have been entered into the trial on 10 different production systems, with varying feeding regimes.
The aim of the trial is to examine ways in which Irish farmers can exploit the high-priced veal market in Europe.
The European market consists of 650,000t of veal produced from milk-fed, iron-deficient calves that produce a very white meat worth roughly twice the price of adult steers in Ireland.
However, the aim of the Teagasc/Dawn Meats project is to produce eight-month-old calves for veal that are fed grass and/or concentrate. This production system would have a better animal welfare image, albeit at a lower price.
"We would hope to get this meat in at the manufacturing end of the European veal market," said Teagasc's dairy research head, Padraig French.