Dairy-beef breeding plan ‘too little too late’
Jersey and Kiwi genetics are now ‘embedded’ in the national dairy herd claims ICSA
There is growing scepticism among farmers over efforts to rejuvenate the beleaguered dairy-calf-to-beef sector hit by poor returns over the past 12 months.
The Farming Independent can reveal that a new programme to test the suitability of various bull breeds to produce beef animals from the dairy herd is being put in place by Teagasc and Dawn Meats.
The joint initiative — which is supported by ICBF and commercial beef finishers — has identified 20 beef bulls from which up to 500 calves will be purchased next spring.
Commercial farmers will then contract rear the calves to steer and heifer beef over the following two years. The meat yield from the slaughtered animals will be measured and the bulls evaluated according to the ICBF’s Dairy Beef Index (DBI).
The initiative comes on the back of moves by Glanbia and Kepak on dairy-beef breeding, following a very challenging spring for calf sales.
Poor beef farmer demand for dairy bulls saw prices halve for Friesian calves, while Jersey and Kiwi crosses were a particularly difficult trade. Many of these sold for as little as €5/hd.
However, the ICSA has questioned why efforts are being made by the meat industry and state agencies to make dairy beef viable while ignoring suckler beef.
‘Magical beef bulls’
“All this talk of finding magical beef bulls to fix the poor conformation of Jersey and Kiwi cross cows is like trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear,” said ICSA beef chair Edmund Graham.