Farm Ireland

Monday 22 January 2018

Cash-short farmers turn to Friesians

Catriona Murphy

Farmers with limited finances are returning to the Friesian bull calf as a way of securing cheaper stock for finishing.

Around 30-50pc of the Friesian bull calves currently sold by Buitelaar Livestock are being sold to Irish buyers instead of being exported.

Between 100 and 150 of the calves collected at the company's Castledermot, Co Kildare, assembly point each week are kept by Adam Buitelaar for his own veal business but the remaining bulls are being bought by farmers with a view to producing them as stores or finished cattle.

"There seems to be a swing back towards the Friesian bull," explained Mr Buitelaar. "Banks are holding money and some farmers who cannot afford Continental calves are buying Friesians at €100-110/hd," he said.

"For €12,000, a farmer can get 100 head, compared to paying more for fewer Continental calves.

"This is the first time in four or five years that all the bull calves are staying in Ireland at this time of year.

"It won't stay that way into spring but there is a swing towards keeping these bulls. Three years ago 95pc of our calves would have gone for export but now there is not even 5pc going."

The prices being paid for bull calves by Irish farmers is highly dependent on quality, with smaller Holstein calves who were not fed much milk making around €40-50/hd. In contrast, good-quality bigger calves are making €130-140/hd.

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Mr Buitelaar warned dairy farmers that it was a false economy to restrict milk-feeding to bull calves that were destined for sale.

Irish Independent