The Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF), in collaboration with Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS) and the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine, has launched a new initiative – the Integrated Dairy Beef Programme.

The aim of the programme – which will commence in February 2020 – is to develop a better supply network and to increase the quality of beef coming from the national dairy herd.

The programme is also aimed at developing more trust between dairy farms and the farms where these calves will be reared and finished – by using the latest technology available such as: the Calf Value Index; and DNA parentage verification.

Also Read: ICBF and Teagasc to pilot new calf index for spring 2020

The ICBF has contacted potential farms that will have the option to express interest in the programme if they so wish.

It is understood that calves will be available to purchase from dairy herds that are participating in ICBF’s DNA Calf Registration pilot, which involves 95 dairy herds.

These herds have a high level of data recording and engagement with ICBF, with both the dams and the sires genotyped.

This – in turn – allows for full parentage verification, resulting in a more accurate calculation of the calf’s beef value; each calf will have a calf index attributed to it, based off its genotype and parentage.

This will provide the beef farmer with more information on the genetic potential for growth rates, feed intakes, finishing ability, including carcass weight and conformation; this should provide the beef farmer with more confidence going forward.

Following on from this, the calves will then be conformation graded by valuers and weighed. Then, the combination of the calf’s index, conformation grade, weight and the average weekly market price will be used to determine an individual value to each calf.

Finer details

The calves that will be sourced will have been reared to a certain high standard and fed adequate amounts of colostrum, milk replacer, calf creep etc. It is understood that no Jersey genetics will be reflected in the available calves.

Once the market price has been agreed, the calves will be delivered to the rearers’ farm at no extra cost and aging, on average, 21 days old – a minimum age of 18 days old will apply.

Moreover, it is also understood that the calves will be eligible for the up-and-coming dairy beef weighing scheme – which is expected to be rolled out next year, paying €10/calf. 

Successful farmers will have to choose the number of calves (minimum 20) and desired breed and sex, but 50% of the calves must be Holstein Friesian male calves. It is believed that the remaining calves can be beef-cross heifers or bulls.

Once submitted, the ICBF will match calves accordingly. No additional actions are required once the calves remain on the buyers farm for minimum of six weeks post purchase.