4 Jul 2017

Dairy farmers moving to 'good returns' from beef calves

2:06 pm on 4 July 2017

Demand for beef calves is driving down the number of bobby calves being processed and providing a lucrative side business for dairy farmers.

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Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

On dairy farms, where 70 percent of all calves are born, those not needed as dairy replacements have traditionally been sent for slaughter.

But that's now changing, according to Doug Lineham, from Beef and Lamb's Dairy Beef Integration Project.

He said feeder beef cross calves were making on average about $150 compared to somewhere between $20 and $40 for a bobby calf.

A dairy farmer with a herd of 300 cows, who mated half the herd for replacements and half for beef, could put $10,000 to $15,000 on his balance sheet "very, very quickly with not much work".

Mr Lineham said it was a no-brainer.

"I think it is something that has sat there for a long time."

He said he thought the market would easily sustain an influx of beef calves.

"There is a very good return on a four- or five-day-old calf and there is room for everybody to have a look at it."

While he saw no downside, there was one challenge.

"There needs to be more work done crossing beef with Jersey and Jersey cross cattle because there are genetic crosses there that will produce very good table beef.

"We need to exploit that further."

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