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Knowing Calves Reared Would Help Beef Supply

20 July 2010

UK - The unparalleled surge of 11-13 month old Holstein bulls onto this year’s prime cattle market demonstrates that the beef industry must make more use of calf registration information from British Cattle Movement Society (BCMS) – and place less emphasis on figures emerging from the twice yearly stock census which are often either inaccurate or outdated.

The National Beef Association which, like many others in the beef sector, has been surprised by the relentless number of young Holstein bulls coming forward for processing at a time when many breeders, finishers, and even processors, were thinking that supplies were on the wane.

It thinks the absence of up to date market supply information covering this phenomenon, which first began to be obvious earlier this year, meant hundreds of feeders were unable to make informed decisions when buying store cattle last autumn, and that false expectations of eventual undersupply continued to influence buying and selling decisions from April onwards too.

“Dairy beef finishers reacted to the closure of the calf export market in 2008, and ready supplies of cheap barley, by rearing thousands of Holstein bull calves that would otherwise have left the country or been shot at birth, “ explained NBA director, Kim Haywood.

“Recent lifts in abattoir intake have been impressive. Between January and March there was a 27 per cent increase in young bull throughput, almost all of them Holsteins, in Great Britain while young bulls accounted for 20 per cent of the Northern Ireland’s intake compared with 16 per cent last year.”

“This upward trend continues, which is no surprise, because BCMS records show a 200,000 head lift in dairy bull calf registrations over the 12 months ending March 31st 2010. The first of these animals have already moved through the abattoir system and there are more to come.”

“This huge rise is almost entirely due to the retention for rearing and feeding of calves, mainly Holstein with some British Blue, which would otherwise not have come through the beef system.”

“Unfortunately the twice yearly census, which is still used as a forecasting base, gave no indication of this – although BCMS calf registration figures quite clearly did.”

“It is important that everyone in the beef industry has the benefit of accurate cattle supply projections. BCMS and APHIS calf registrations in Britain and Northern Ireland are real. The calves have to exist if they are tagged and because sex is also listed it is relatively easy to forecast how many dairy bull calves are being reared.”

“In contrast census information is not as useful in the dairy beef area and it would be helpful if more analysts and forecasters placed more emphasis on calf registrations when looking at projected prime cattle supplies,” Ms Haywood added.

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