Demand for beef calves from the dairy herd

Stephen Lavery, Genus, Damien Mulholland and his son, Dara, pictured  with the two young British Blue bulls
Stephen Lavery, Genus, Damien Mulholland and his son, Dara, pictured with the two young British Blue bulls

In order to meet the demand for beef calves from the dairy herd Genus ABS has increased the number of potentially high genetic merit young beef sires being tested for calving ease.

The latest entry to their testing regime are two young British Blue sires from Brendan and Damien Mulholland’s Bridlenas herd Derrymacash, Lurgan. This father and son team have been involved in pedigree breeding for the past 15 years in addition to running a commercial suckler herd.

Damien explained: “For a number of years there was keen demand for British Blue bulls in the South of Ireland but recently the demand from dairy farmers in the North has increased due to the efforts being made to increase profit from progeny that is not needed for herd replacements.”

He went on to say that the demand from dairy farmers is for a white British Blue bull. This sire will colour mark the progeny blue and white, as demanded in the market place. In addition the blue sire also transmits improved conformation, providing calves that have the shape to obtain better grades. The British Blue sire will also ensure a shorter gestation period and ease of calving.

He added: “Calving ease is intrinsically linked with problems after calving - the easier calving a sire, the more likely the cow is to go on after calving without a problem.”

The young sires going into the Genus ABS stud for semen collection and evaluation are Bridlenas Cash Joker sired by Harpon de L’Orget and Bridlenas Cash Jazzy sired by Tamhorn Sumo.

Stephen Lavery, Genus ABS said: “Every year, between ten and 20 new young sires are tested and these selected young sires are available to farmers and tested by farmers in Northern Ireland. This helps speed up Northern Ireland’s access to the latest high genetic merit beef sires, and increase the rate at which proven sires are available in Northern Ireland.”

In order to assist dairy farmers find the best beef genetics for use in the dairy herd Genus is offering a credit payment of £7.50 for each calving survey form on young test sires returned to them. The dairy farmer purchases a maximum of 10 straws at £3 per straw from an individual beef sire and as each calf is born he forwards a calving survey form to Genus and in turn receives a credit of £7.50 per calf.

Stephen went on to say that some farmers use Estimated Breeding Values (EBV) but these are only an estimation and are based on beef bulls used on pedigree beef cows – the results of breeding into dairy breeds can be significantly different. Therefore if farmers want to be confident that a selected sire will be easy calving in the dairy herd, it is essential to choose a beef bull that is backed by a proven calving survey measured over dairy cows.

He said: “Genus ABS have been carrying out comprehensive calving surveys of beef bulls on dairy cows for over 30 years and operate the longest established and most extensive calving survey available in the UK.”

Farmers selecting a bull with a calving survey can see the actual calving ease as a percentage of difficult calvings on dairy cows, the average gestation length of the sire and an assessment of calf conformation.

Stephen explains: “Difficult calvings not only delay the speed at which cows get established in lactation, but can also have a significant impact on how quickly a cow will rebreed. Both of these have a substantial cost, potentially as much as the value of the cow.”

A final significant point about ease of calving is that there is more difference within breeds than between breeds so it is not always enough just to select a particular breed because it is easy calving.

To find out more about these new young beef sires please contact your local Genus ABS representative or Stephen Lavery, Beef Specialist on 077 6805 8450.