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What do dairy-beef farmers want in potential calves?

What do dairy-beef farmers want in potential calves?

Purchasing decisions made on calf to beef farms in the coming weeks can have positive or negative impacts on the level of performance achieved throughout the animal’s life cycle and the resulting profit returned from the venture.

Speaking on his experiences of working with demonstration farms as part of the DairyBeef 500 Campaign as part of a webinar on January 30th, Tommy Cox explained why sourcing a healthy calf at an optimum price is fundamental to the success of a dairy calf to beef enterprise.

Highlighted the key factors dairy beef farmers consider when purchasing calves, he said: “They want a healthy calf and that's fundamental. A calf that gets an illness at a young age generally can be compromised right throughout its life cycle and performance levels won’t be to the standards that they should be.

“They want a calf from a trusted source, a person that's doing a good job in the first two to three weeks of the calf's life cycle, that's giving the calf adequate levels of colostrum and providing the right environment for that young calf.”

Tommy also touched on the value of the calf, adding: “Paying over the odds for the calf at the time of purchase is generally going to erode the potential profit to be made from that animal.” This goes hand-in-hand with the genetic potential of the calf, with calf to beef producers looking to source an animal that will perform at slaughter. For these to achieved, the genetics of the calf have to be known, which can be achieved through the recording of sire data and further verified through examining the Commercial Beef Values of genotyped calves.

Another consideration is the age of the calf, with calves being three weeks of age or greater desirable, he explained, as they animals are less susceptible to diseases Tommy also highlighted the key things calf to beef producers should examine prior to buying calves. In terms of appearance, the calf should be:

  • Alert – clean, damp nose and bright eyes;
  • No lameness – bear weight on all limbs;
  • Navel cord – dry, withered and shrivelled;
  • Relaxed breathing;
  • No visible signs of disease.

The DairyBeef 500 advisor also touched on the importance of sourcing calves from trusted sources, while advising farmers to develop relationships with local farmers – where possible - when sourcing calves. Additionally, for farmers going out to purchase calves this spring, he advised them to gather as much information as possible in relation to the herd health status of the origin farm, the breeding strategy in play and the colostrum and calf feeding management practices.

To access this webinar, which also features a presentation from Liam Gannon of Volac Milk Replacers Ireland and a panel discussion featuring Charlie Smyth, DairyBeef 500 demonstration farmer, click here.

Also read: Keeping calves healthy as calf rearing kicks off

Also read: Breeding better beef calves for sale

Also read: How to source the right calf

Also read: Checklist to prepare for purchasing calves