Rearing & finishing Black & White male calves is becoming a more specialised operation.
Last year’s focus by processors on supermarket specification, and the introduction of price penalties specifically aimed at dairy-bred animals, especially those with a black and white coat, has narrowed interest in them.
Cheaper barley has not triggered more interest in cereal fed bulls and Black & White beef calves are in danger of becoming “damaged goods”
The top 5% of male Holstein rearing calves are currently trading at £70 – £120 and if colour is not a problem, some “attractively” presented calves can be picked up for as little as £60 – £70.
A greater proportion are being finished as steers too. Indeed it is estimated that even if beef cross calves are included at least 70% of those coming out of the dairy herd have been castrated.
Looking further ahead there is a revived expectation that dairy cows will continue to shrink in line with genetic advances in milk yield potential and an observation that more herds will contain cross-breds.
The latter is significant because these herds tend to block calve in Spring and even if an Angus (which is the favoured crossing bull) has been used, the calves, which can contain 25% Jersey blood, are still not attractive to specialist rearers.