The narrative of buying dairy beef calves based on breed has to change to beef farmers buying these calves based on their genetic merit, Teagasc’s Padraig French has said.

The head of livestock systems at Teagasc said that if farmers keep focusing on breeds alone, things won’t change.

“You have to focus on the best within breeds and again the same from the dairy side. What you want is the beef farmer to buy the calf based on their commercial beef value (CBV) – that is the amount of profit potential that’s in that calf based on its genetic merit.

“They get half from their mother and half from their father. Whether a farmer buys a high-CBV calf and pays more for him or buys a low-CBV calf and pays less for him, they make the same amount of profit provided they pay relative to their genetic merit for beef.

“We have to get the dairy farmer and the beef farmer working together but it’s going to be based on the genetic merit of that calf for beef. They have to be paying on that,” he told a Guild of Agricultural Journalists of Ireland event hosted by ABP on its Carlow demonstration farm recently.

He said that Teagasc data so far, carried out in a research environment, shows that “if you lift the CBV by €1 that calf makes €2 more profit in its life for the beef farmer”.

Reared to beef

ABP sustainability manager Stephen Connolly said the Carlow farm buys in 400 calves a year and rears them to beef.

“We rear our heifers to 19 months, typically around 280kg, and our steers to 21 months.

“We’re buying Angus, Hereford, Limousin, Belgian Blue, Stabilisers – all breeds.

“There’s some calves here that are not good-quality calves – we buy the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s a trial farm, we buy everything. We still end up getting our animals killed at 19, 20 and 21 months.”