An additional €50/head has been added to the production costs of rearing a calf over the last two years, analysis from the Irish Farmers Journal, Thrive dairy calf-to-beef programme has shown.

In 2021, the average cost of bringing a calf to two weeks post-weaning off milk was €106/head, excluding the purchase price of the calf. This cost is projected to be €153/head this year. It marks a 44% increase in costs from 2021 and a 24% increase on this time last year.

Adding in the purchase price of the dairy-beef calf will bring the rearing costs to north of €300/head at weaning, before any mortality, labour or overhead costs are taken into account.

The appetite for dairy-beef calves remains strong. However, many beef farmers would prefer to purchase calves weaned off milk due to the labour requirements of successful calf rearing.

A number of the processor-led dairy-beef production models have struggled in recent years to secure calf rearers and it remains a stumbling block for the industry.

Live exports

While live exports are set to continue in 2023, speaking at the recent Bord Bia meat marketing seminar, Mark Zieg said that “the longer-term outlook is challenging, with particular pressure on the young calf export trade”.

Over 150,000 calves under six weeks old were exported in 2022 but, in the future, these calves may have to be reared in Ireland.