GB Dairy Calf Strategy 2020-2023: guidance
Guidance for dairy and beef farmers who are exploring options to rear and market dairy bred calves.
The British dairy industry prides itself on being a pioneer in dairy cattle welfare; it is a top priority for the sector, and our farmers take the lead to develop and enforce the highest animal welfare standards on our farms. The fate of dairy bull calves is not a secret; it is a key focus area within the industry. The rearing of bull calves for the beef market on farm remains high, and several industry initiatives continue to champion improvements in calf health, welfare and survival. There is still room for improvement, and we will continue to challenge ourselves to keep progressing in these areas.
I am a dairy farmer – what are my options?
How do I create a breeding programme to limit the number of dairy-sired bull calves born?
1. Decide on your breeding objectives and align the traits you are choosing for your dairy sires with the requirements of your milk contract using the herd genetic report.
2. Calculate your requirements for heifer replacements straws and use beef straws using the semen usage calculator and forecast your value of sales from dairy crosses
3. Review our information on improving fertility and farmer case studies on using sexed semen:
- Webinar: Practical use of sexed semen for block calvers
- The InCalf guide for GB farmers calving all-year-round
- The InCalf guide for GB farmers with block calving herds
4. When choosing beef semen to use on the rest of the cows not producing replacement heifers, choose bulls with specific genetic traits relevant i.e. calving ease
What do I do if I am down with Tb and cannot sell calves?
- The Tb Hub has all the relevant information relating to approved finishing units in England and Wales. Approved Finishing Units (AFUs) in England and Wales - Bovine TB | TB Hub
- Wales have produced a new FAQ doc around the AFUs and TB sales
- AFUs Finishing units for cattle: approved premises - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
- This interactive map shows both breakdowns by area and assured finishing units so you can see what is locally available.
Where can I market my calves?
As a dairy farmer, you have a range of options for your dairy bred calves if they are not returning to the dairy herd.
- Rear on farm
- Selling to local beef farmers
- Selling to market
- Selling direct to integrated calf rearers (collection centres)
- For dairies with small stature cows there are specific small stature schemes available
I am a beef farmer – how do I maximise profits from dairy calves?
Many farmers benefit from working with local dairy farmers but what questions should you be asking?
- Colostrum management – buy calves which are known to receive three litres of good quality colostrum in the first six hours of life
- The type of dairy cows in the herd, to understand the dam’s influence on frame size and conformation
- The health status of the herd, e.g. BVD, Johne’s, IBR, TB, to understand the health risks associated with the calves
These resources are available to order in hard copy. Fill in our order form to get your copy today and explore our other publications.
Average labour requirements for calf rearing
Average labour hours per month for an early weaning calf rearing enterprise.
6-12 months, yarded
Source: John Nix Pocketbook for Farm Management, 2020