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Teagasc/Dawn Meats Dairy Beef Conference

The number of male dairy calves being born in Ireland is increasing as the dairy herd expands. A new initiative by Teagasc and Dawn Meats is exploring profitable ways of producing beef from the 320,000 male dairy calves currently produced annually.

A joint conference outlining this new project to farmers is taking place in Teagasc Johnstown Castle Research Centre, County Wexford today, Tuesday, 9 November. Farmers attending the conference and farm walk will hear that this year, 160,000 head, or almost half of the male calves from the dairy herd are being exported live. But if these calves were reared to beef in a bull beef systems in Ireland, it could add an estimated €120 million to the value of agricultural exports nationally.

Teagasc Head of Livestock Systems Research, Padraig French said: “The national dairy cow herd is expected to increase by three per cent per annum from 2011. Sixty per cent of these cows are bred to dairy sires. The objective is to develop a range of calf to beef systems which are profitable for producers and providing a marketable product for meat processors.”

Pearse Kelly, Teagasc Beef Specialist, and Paul Crosson Beef Researcher in Grange outlined how Holstein/ Friesian bull calves can be finished in bull and steer systems generating gross margins of between €900 and €1,100 per hectare. Pearse Kelly said: “High stocking rates and high animal performance are essential components of each of the systems. Where bulls are grazed for half of the second grazing season before being finished over a short period on ad-libitum concentrate indoors, the current potential gross margin is up to €1,100 per hectare.”

Paul Nolan from Dawn Meats said: ”This joint initiative is important to establish a technically viable blueprint for the efficient and profitable production of bull beef from the Irish dairy herd. The trials at Johnstown Castle, and on a number of commercial farms throughout the country, will produce a technical blueprint that will form the bedrock of all dairy bull production systems“

This new initiative is looking at finishing these animals to beef at five different ages, 8, 12, 15, 18 and 22 months of age on different feeding systems.