There will be almost 1m dairy-bred calves available for beef production by 2020, according to Paul Crosson of Teagasc.

Speaking at a recent Irish Grassland Association beef tour he said it is expected that by 2020 Irish dairy farmers will be calving 1.25m cows.

Crosson said at the moment there are about 750,000 calves that are available for beef production from the dairy herd.

“By 2020 this will be about 950,000,” he said.

Crosson said with not far off 1m calves from the dairy herd suitable for dairy production in the next five years the question which must be asked is ‘what happens to those calves?’ or ‘what do we do with those animals?’.

There are three options, he said.

Firstly, as is the case at the moment some will go for live export and he said that last year Ireland exported about 100,000 calves.

“That will continue to be the case we expect.

“But, there are a number of caveats in terms of disease restrictions,” he said.

Another option, according to Crosson, is that suckler farmers can take some of these beef crossbred heifers as replacements for their herds.

He said research at Grange has shown that these beef crossbred heifers can make very good suckler cows.

However, Crosson said that the vast bulk of these calves will likely stay in the country and will be finished through to beef.

calves exports

This year has seen total calf registrations up 6.6% to-date or 110,000head. Of this figure, calves from the dairy herd account for much of the increase at 94,000head.

Much of the increase is likely due to the post milk quota expansion of Ireland’s dairy industry. Research has suggested that over 300,000 extra dairy cows will be required to achieve a 50% increase in milk volume targeted by the sector.

The latest figures are in line with a recent survey of dairy farmers production plans, by Teagasc.

It found that 60% of dairy farmers, or 11,000 farmers, plan to expand milk production in the 2015 to 2017 period.

A further one-third of farmers plan to maintain their current production level, while a small proportion, 5%, are planning to either decrease or exit milk production.

The average current herd size of those planning to increase production was 79 cows, while those planning no change in production had an average herd size of 51 cows at the time of the survey.