Before purchasing calves, beef farmers are advised to estimate production costs and carcass value of the system they are aiming for to ensure they will return a profit, according to Teagasc.

But it also advises that there are four key areas where beef farmers should not be trying to save money on if they have bought in young calves for rearing:

1. Straw bedding

Young calves have to be bedded in huge amounts of clean dry straw. This keeps them warm as they nest in the straw, creating their own mini-microclimate while at the same time it keeps them away from any dung and urine in the shed.

You should not be able to see the calf’s legs when it is lying down.

2. Vaccines

Any farm that has begun a vaccination programme with their calves will never go back to taking the risk of not having one and hoping for the best.

Pneumonia is one of the biggest killers of young calves and it is hard to avoid without vaccinating. Speak to your vet about what is the most suitable programme for your calves.

3. Milk replacer

The less milk replacer you feed the lower the weight your calves will be next autumn when you are housing them.

Most of this lost weight gain will never be recovered. Feed 650-750g of milk replacer per head per day.

In other words, a 20kg bag of milk replacer should feed no more than 25-30 calves per day.

4. Calf crunch

Start feeding this from day one and do not restrict it. This promotes the development of the calf’s rumen so that it can be weaned off milk replacer at an early age.

Buy a high-quality calf crunch that is palatable. Calves can be weaned once they are eating over 1.0kg per day for three consecutive days.

Teagasc has provided a table giving farmers guideline costs (excluding labour) and carcass weights for the most common calf-to-beef systems (operated at a high level of efficiency):

Source: Teagasc

*With moderate levels of efficiency use 5% lower carcass weights and 10% higher costs -Teagasc

Teagasc has said that these figures can then be used by beef farmers to estimate the value of calves for sale:

  • Carcass weight × Estimated beef selling price (€ per kg)
  • Minus total costs (€ per head)
  • Minus net margin required (€ per head)
  • = Value of calf (€ per head)