Warning over value of Friesian bull calves

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Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

Friesian bull calves will have to be bought at €50-70/hd this spring for beef finishers to make money, according to Pearse Kelly of Teagasc.

In addition, dairy-cross calves that have poor beef traits could be worthless, the head of drystock and knowledge transfer at Teagasc warned.

"A Friesian bull calf brought through to two-year steer beef will cost close to €1,000," Mr Kelly said.

"That means at today's beef prices, to make a very modest €150 profit per head, a good Friesian bull calf is not worth any more than €50 to €70," he said.

"Where beef calves are bred from low-index beef bulls that are easy calving with short gestation lengths but poor beef carcass traits, their value as young calves are considerably less than what should be paid for the better quality calves," Mr Kelly added.

"For many, therefore, their value could be approaching zero or even less," he said.

Dairy warning

Friesian bulls generally sold for €90-120/hd in the marts last spring, with lighter and plainer calves making €60-90/hd. Calves of four to six weeks of age averaged €150-160/hd.

The Teagasc head of drystock warned farmers to be extremely careful in the type of calves they buy from dairy herds.

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"With the increasing number of beef animals coming from the dairy herd, beef farmers need to be careful about the types of calves they buy, and the price they pay for these calves," Mr Kelly pointed out.

"While they may be of a beef breed, the important thing to know before buying them is the sire they were bred from. The reality is, calves that are bred out of low carcass trait bulls have a very low value," he said.

While Mr Kelly welcomed the new dairy beef index that is being proposed by ICBF, he maintained that the current emphasis on ease of calving and shorter gestation length was having a detrimental impact on the beef yield of the progeny.

"At the moment, most of the sires that dairy farmers are choosing, while being low for calving difficulty and short in gestation length, are very poor for carcass traits.

"Most are negative for carcass weight, which means it can be very difficult for those beef animals to meet minimum carcass specifications when they are eventually slaughtered," he explained.

Farmers also needed to limit what they paid for heifer calves, Mr Kelly said.

"Beef farmers need to be especially careful when doing their sums on what they can pay for early-maturing beef heifers. These typically kill out at low carcass weights, which means it can be hard to have a sale value above €950 to €1,000," Mr Kelly pointed out.

"Therefore, based on their costs of production, these early-maturing beef heifers are worth less than €100/h at two weeks of age if there is to be a worthwhile profit to be made by the beef farmer - and that is assuming they meet carcass specifications."

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