Surecalves attract some spirited bidding around the sales rings

Blue tagged calves, vaccinated under the SureCalf Scheme with (from left) vets, James Barrett and Kevin Leonard, Drumlin Vets Enniskillen; Frank McCrystal, Zoetis and James Johnston, Ulster Farmers Mart.
Blue tagged calves, vaccinated under the SureCalf Scheme with (from left) vets, James Barrett and Kevin Leonard, Drumlin Vets Enniskillen; Frank McCrystal, Zoetis and James Johnston, Ulster Farmers Mart.

The suckled calf sales which have so far witnessed excellent groups of SureCalves® being presented, certainly highlighted the demand for calves which had been vaccinated and prepared for sale.

This innovative scheme was introduced at Ballymena and Enniskillen Marts this year and the organisers, global animal health company, Zoetis, plan to expand this to other marts in future years.

Cattle buyer Ivan Morrison (left) from Lisnaskea, looking over calves vaccinated under the SureCalf Scheme with James Johnston, Ulster Farmers Mart, Enniskillen and Frank McCrystal, Zoetis.

Cattle buyer Ivan Morrison (left) from Lisnaskea, looking over calves vaccinated under the SureCalf Scheme with James Johnston, Ulster Farmers Mart, Enniskillen and Frank McCrystal, Zoetis.

Terry Johnston, from Enniskillen Farmers Mart, commented: “Our opening sale is a special competition event for the Charolais breed so we do have a large turnout of strong calves which command leading prices. The inclusion of over 90 calves which were specially prepared under the SureCalf® scheme added an extra dimension to the event and certainly caught the interest of the buyers.”

The 278 heifers sold at Enniskillen’s opening sale averaged £672 while the 375 bulls and steers averaged £754 per head.

Ballymena’s opening sale was another bumper event with over 700 calves on offer and the heifers averaging £717 while the bulls and steers averaged £882. Further sales each Saturday during October have continued the trend.

Mart Manager, Sam McNabney echoed the sentiments from the Enniskillen event stating that the opening sale in Ballymena always attracts keen bidding due to the fact that there is a competition taking place.

Padraig McGuinness, Belcoo discusses the Surecalf programme for his calves with Frank McCrystal, Zoetis at Enniskillen Mart.

Padraig McGuinness, Belcoo discusses the Surecalf programme for his calves with Frank McCrystal, Zoetis at Enniskillen Mart.

“The interest in the SureCalves® is more apparent when we do not have the excitement of competition calves, and sellers and buyers are both totally concentrating on the commercial aspects of the trade,” he said.

Aurelie Moralis, Veterinary surgeon with Zoetis commented: “We are delighted that many farmers decided to enter their calves for the SureCalf® programme and we will follow their progress through the beef chain with interest. This is the first year of the scheme in Northern Ireland and it will take time for both buyers and sellers to become familiar with it and realise the benefits.”

Aurelie went on to say that when the scheme started in Scotland in 2007 there was only a small number of calves involved. Now a large number of calves are in the scheme and last year SureCalves® realised a bonus of over £40 per head.

SureCalf® is a pre-conditioning programme aimed at minimising the impact of bovine respiratory disease (BRD) and improving the welfare of calves as they pass through market.

Sellers register their calves at least two weeks prior to sale by calling the SureCalf® Helpline on 0800 668 1886.The information required is the dates of birth of the calves, numbers being sold, the date of vaccination and the batch number of the vaccines used, plus the name of their veterinary practice. They will then receive personalised SureCalf® certificates, with these details.

On the day of sale the seller provides the buyer with this signed certificate showing compliance with the SureCalf® programme. The seller will also receive blue ear tags which can be inserted in the calf’s ear and cards for the calf pens, thus identifying the vaccinated calves for the buyers.

Calves must be over 10 weeks of age, and are vaccinated 1 to 3 weeks prior to sale with a single intranasal dose of Rispoval® IntraNasal (against BRSv and Pi3v) and a single intranasal dose of TracherineTM (against IBR). The buyer benefits from up to six months ongoing cover against IBR and up to three months ongoing cover against BRSv and Pi3v ensuring protection going into the winter housing period.