Duration 4 years commencing March 2005
Team and Leader L. Dawson, M.A. McCoy and B. Moss
Organisations involved Agricultural Research Institute of Northern Ireland and Department of Agriculture and Rural Development for Northern Ireland (DARDNI)
Background and Summary
There are approximately 298,000 and 307,000 dairy and suckler cows in Northern Ireland respectively. Whilst it is envisaged that post Mid Term Review (MTR) of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) the number of suckler cows will decline, it is predicted that the dairy herd will increase slightly.
Currently progeny from the dairy herd contribute 47% of prime beef output and it is likely that this proportion will increase post MTR of the CAP for the following reasons:
(1) A shortage of progeny from the suckler herd for finishing due to the decline in beef cow numbers.
(2) The desire by dairy producers to increase income from calf sales. During 2003 the mean prices paid for continental bulls and heifers and Holstein bull calves at 2-3 weeks of age were £197, £100 and £50 respectively.
(3) Whilst sexed semen is currently commercially available for breeding replacement heifers, further improvements are required before it will become widely used on dairy farms. Sexed semen is only available for Holstein bulls and conception rates are highest when used in maiden heifers. Conception rates from sexed semen are in the region of 70-80% of that achieved with frozen unsexed semen when used on synchronised maiden heifers. Conception to sexed semen declines dramatically when used on more mature dairy cows. However when sexed semen is available at an economic cost coupled with no negative impact on conception rate, its use in the dairy herd both to produce female replacements and male progeny from beef sires for beef production should increase.
Whilst beef cross dairy calves from the dairy herd command a premium price in the market place, it is essential that the actual additional value of these calves are determined. Furthermore, finishing the progeny as bulls, steers or heifers has a large impact on the resultant carcass value. Previous studies at Hillsborough have shown that, when slaughtered at a constant age, the carcass value of bulls, steers and heifers were £618, £523 and £473 respectively.
The project will involve rearing 160 calves from four breeds (Holstein, Limousin, Charolais and Belgian Blue sourced from the dairy herd at Hillsborough) over a 2-year period to beef as steers and bulls commencing March 2005 and completing March 2008.
Final report to be with AgriSearch March 2010.
(1) Evaluate the effect of terminal sire breed on animal performance and meat quality of dairy herd progeny.
(2) Determine the effects of the use of beef semen on subsequent herd fertility and performance of dairy cattle.
(3) Identify the most cost effective means of producing beef from progeny of the dairy herd taking into consideration proposed changes in the MTR of the CAP.