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The Irish Dairy Beef Industry an Introduction

The dairy beef industry in Ireland is an ever growing and ever important industry. Due to the growth in the national dairy cow population in the post quota era, there has been a proportional increase in the number of dairy calves available for beef production. This growth is predicted to continue, with dairy cow numbers expected to reach 1.6 million by 2020.Calves in shed

The Irish dairy herd is mainly comprised of spring calving cows managed on seasonal pasture based production systems. Approximately 30% (circa 340,000) of dairy calves born are replacement dairy heifers (AIM, 2016). The remaining calves (approximately 840,000 calves) are potentially available for beef production.

Calves from the dairy herd

In general, male dairy calves that remain in Ireland are managed under various dairy calf-to-beef systems, with the majority being steer systems. Beef crossbred heifer calves are either operated in low input production systems or retained for breeding in the suckler herd. Presently, male dairy calves represent 41% of calves available for beef production, while 43% are early-maturing crossbred calves (26% Angus and 17% Hereford). Limousin, Belgian Blue and other crossbred dairy calves make up the remainder (approximately 95,000 calves).

With the surge in calf numbers, finding the most profitable and sustainable calf-to-beef production system has been an aim of the research at Johnstown Castle Research Farm.  The current dairy beef study goes a step further, with it's focus being the evaluation of progeny performance from certain beef sires.

Information on the artificial rearing of dairy beef calves, health and welfare of dairy beef animals, historic and current dairy beef research is available by following the links below.

  1. Johnstown Castle Research Farm
  2. Other dairy beef research
  3. Animal health and welfare
  4. Care of the artificially reared calf
  5. Publications