Beef farmers need to ask more questions about the genetic merit of dairy beef calves and understand the potential of calves with better figures, said Teagasc researcher Nicky Byrne, who runs the dairy calf to beef trial at Grange.

“At Grange, we’re buying calves from really good farms where they are using high-merit bulls but they are top 1% herds. These high-performing herds have a very very strong beef policy,” he told Teagasc’s DairyBeef 500 conference last week in the Ardboyne Hotel, Navan, Co Meath.

Overall, however, the number of dairy farmers using AI to breed beef calves is very low and between 30% and 40% of Hereford and Angus calves are by unknown sires, DairyBeef 500 programme co-ordinator Alan Dillon said.

“A lot of farmers are using very poor-quality Hereford and Angus sires. They cost more in comparison to Friesians and apart from some of them getting the bonus, we don’t really find they give anything extra in terms of carcase weight and probably don’t justify the extra price paid in a lot of cases.

“If we could be sure of higher-quality genetics it would definitely be worth paying the extra for them,” he said.