Why calves are being sold off for just €2 each
Published 22/02/2014 | 02:30
Thousands of calves across the country are being sold for as little as €2 because they can't be used for beef.
Farmers nationwide are being forced to offload bull calves from the Jersey breed of dairy cattle for rock-bottom prices as they cannot be fattened up like other breeds.
While female cows are bred for their milk, male cows, or bulls, are usually fattened up with feedstuff and sold for beef.
Manager at Bandon cattle mart in Co Cork, Tom McCarthy, said the mart had been selling between 20 and 30 Jersey bull calves per week for just €2, while the normal price for the preferred Friesian breed of bull calf can range from anywhere between €80 and €150.
Up to 500 Jersey bull calves were sold at the mart during last year's season for the breed, which runs between February and May.
Mr McCarthy, whose mart is part of the Cork Marts group, said there has been a "swing" towards breeding Jersey cattle over the last decade because the female's milk is "great quality".
However, the young bulls are considered useless.
Mr McCarthy said Jersey cattle had become increasingly popular in the past three or four years as farmers have been forced to produce better milk due to increased competition.
"She's also a lighter cow, which suits the conditions in some smaller farms.
"If you have heavy soil, some farmers are going down the route of breeding them because there is less compaction of soil, which means better grass will grow.
"Their milk solids are very good for butter fat and protein, but the downside is that their male progeny are not worth anything," he said.
"It's the same all over the world. If you check it out in New Zealand, which is the biggest producer of Jerseys, I don't think they get anything for their bull calves," he said.
A spokesperson from the Irish Farming Association said that out of a total of 2.2 million calves born in Ireland annually, it is estimated that 1.2pc are Jersey bull calves.
They said that Jersey bulls are usually slaughtered after they are sold at a relatively young age, normally under 16 months. It it thought that many end up as pet food.