It is not socially acceptable to slaughter calves under six weeks of age and it is a practice that has been described as “laziness” by Teagasc Grange research officer Nicky Byrne.

Speaking at Teagasc’s DairyBeef 500 conference last Wednesday night, Byrne said “farmers know” if they use better beef genetics they can produce a higher-quality calf, irrespective of cow type, that can add further value throughout the production chain.

“We can make sure if we use those better genetics, that those calves are going to have a better chance of gaining custom at young ages and move off the farm,” he said.

A successful dairy beef policy, Byrne said, is something that is going to play an important role in maintaining dairy and is something that dairy farmers should really be focused on.

For dairy farmers, he argued that by using higher merit beef genetics, they can produce a heavy enough carcase at a young age and that will help reduce the impact of the national herd in terms of methane emissions.

Age of slaughter

Based on findings from dairy beef research in Grange, Byrne said that there are huge opportunities for these animals to be killed at much younger ages.

“We’re successfully producing in-spec carcases at 19 and 20 months of age. Most importantly, that dairy beef animal is very much capable of doing that from a predominantly grass-based diet,” he said.

If we get farmers to use the genetics that are known to work, there will be a very rapid and widespread improvement in the quality of that calf crop, he said.