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Beef Prices Prompt Native Breed Calves to be Moved to Rearing

14 March 2013

UK - Noises from within the beef industry are urging dairy farmers to place more 21 day old native breed sired calves on the rearing market in light of current domestic and export markets.

Demand has rocketed for grass fed, British breeds in recent weeks and Chris Mallon, National Beef Association (NBA) national director has called for farmers to keep Angus, Beef Shorthorn or Hereford bulls that can attract premiums for meat quality and provenance.

“Tesco is currently constructing a 2,500 head a week supply system for certified Angus cattle which is the biggest seen in the UK so far and The Co-operative has confirmed that from the beginning of April it will be on the market for 300 Hereford cross cattle a week,” said Mr Mallon.

“At the same time Morrisons is looking for more Beef Shorthorn crosses to feed into its premium beef scheme, Waitrose and M&S want to keep pace with the expanding market for Aberdeen Angus beef, and Waitrose is also committed to buying 300 Hereford cross steers and heifers a week too.”

The NBA has recommended that the ideal approach would be to present well bred, well fed, well presented, 21 day old native-breed sired calves to an organised, well structured, buyer.

At current market values suitable bred Angus cross bull calves are making £200-£275 a head, heifers £100-£180 a head, which is just about level with Limousin crosses, and only British Blue and Simmental cross calves make more.

“We anticipate that as the retail market for top-shelf beef expands the native breed calves that supply it will acquire more value in relation to other crosses,” said Mr Mallon.

“And on top of this there are calving and management advantages to putting native breed AI bulls over heifers or running a quiet native bred bull with their cows.”

“But the bulls must be good ones that can breed heifers with carcases weighing more than 280 kg and steers killing out at over 310kg. There would be no point in buying a poor bull for £800 that produces heifers at 250kg and steers at 280kg because there is no market for carcases that are so light.”

“Ideally calves would be produced against a buyer template, including a health plan, so they can be immediately integrated into established rearing and finishing systems. Obviously full colostrum intake would be essential and care would also have to be taken that the calves were prepared for high forage, and not high cereal, systems,” Mr Mallon added.

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