Calf-to-beef farmers who are members of ABP Food Group’s Advantage Beef Programme have joined forces with dairy farmers who are supplying milk to Aurivo Co-op in a mutual effort to improve the quality of beef calves coming from the dairy herd.

The beef and dairy farmer collaboration aims to benefit both parties involved. Dairy farmers have a set market for their calves while beef farmers will be provided with higher genetic-merit beef calves.

The initiative was launched last year and the first calves of the farmer collaboration have been snapped up by calf-to-beef farmers this year.

Over 100 calves will be moved through the pilot scheme this spring, with numbers expected to rise substantially next year.

The initiative is being spearheaded by Advantage Beef Programme farm liaison officer Oisin Lynch, who said: “We are delighted with the high-level of interest in the pilot scheme from both the beef and dairy farmers.

“It’s very encouraging to see dairy farmers are willing to work towards producing better-quality calves that will meet market specifications for the beef farmers and to see beef farmers so keen to secure these higher genetic-merit beef calves,” he added.

“Speaking to beef farmers in the region since the launch of the sire improvement scheme with Aurivo, there is huge positivity from participating members and a very keen interest from others to purchase these calves next year. We would encourage more dairy farmers to get involved.”

Aurivo’s head of farm services, Michael O’Brien added: “The Aurivo/ABP programme aims to develop a viable market for all calves.

“The programme’s goals are to improve the quality and value of calves from our dairy herds through advice on bull selection and breeding. The Aurivo/ABP programme promotes and supports the highest standards of animal welfare throughout the animal’s life.”

The ABP/Aurivo sire-improvement pilot scheme

The pilot scheme was launched in spring 2022 when 120 artificial insemination (AI) straws were offered to Aurivo milk suppliers.

The move cames as part of ABP’s Advantage Beef Programme initiative and the purpose of the new venture is to work with dairy and beef farmers to encourage the use of higher genetic-merit AI sires, resulting in better-quality calves with the potential for higher beef-carcass performance.

The selection criteria for the sires in the pilot programme included:

  • Sires had to meet the Advantage Beef Programme’s minimum genetic threshold;
  • The sires had to be easy calving and short gestation (to suit the dairy farmer) but have good carcass traits (to suit the beef farmer);
  • Sires had to be from proven bloodlines.

Initially, four beef farmers in the west of Ireland are purchasing the calves this year. These calves will be reared and finished through the Advantage Beef Programme.

Two of the beef farmers are getting their calves contract reared in Co.Cavan. The calves are on the farm as of now and will stay for the duration of their 70-day rearing programme on an automatic feeder.

Once weaned off milk, the calves will return to the purchasing beef farm until finishing. The two other beef farmers involved will rear the calves themselves on their home farm.

A recommended team of bulls for the 2023 breeding season has been compiled by the Advantage Beef Programme team.

Advantage farm liaison officers have encouraged Aurivo milk suppliers to get involved in the pilot scheme and for more information, farmers can contact their local Aurivo representative or ABP farm liaison officer.