Beefing up your calves?

Published 2 November 16

AHDB recently published an article looking at the premium native breed calves achieve over their pure dairy counterparts. Looking at auction sales, it appears that dairy producers are increasingly taking advantage of this premium and using more beef genetics in their breeding decisions.

Beefing up your calves?

The graph above shows calf sales (not more than 3 weeks old) through auction markets. On a 12- month rolling basis, Holstein bull calf sales have been trending lower since the beginning of 2013. Meanwhile, throughputs of Hereford Crosses have been increasing. Sales of Hereford Crosses for bull and heifer calves in September 2016 were up 110% and 76%, respectively, compared to September 2012. Over the same period, sales of Holstein/Friesian bull calves were down 17%, albeit from a larger base.

Data from BCMS on herd sizes supports these findings, with the population of Hereford and Aberdeen Angus cattle (less than 6 months of age) up almost 16k head in July 2016 compared to the same month last year. The population of dairy animals in this age bracket is down 25k head during the same period, although some of this decrease may also be explained by a smaller dairy herd in recent months. The rapid increase in beef cross calves  has raised concerns in the beef sector about how valuable these animals may be in the future, if supplies continue to increase at this rate.