Calf scheme to save needless waste

A beef producer in Somerset has developed a scheme to help dairy farmers improve the beef qualities of its pure Holstein male dairy calves.

Blade Farming estimates that around 2,000 Holstein male dairy calves are killed each week at, or shortly after, birth, mainly because their body conformation is not suited to beef production. Beef finishers are said to be often put off from rearing and finishing Holstein bull calves, due to the variability in carcase shape and health status of the calves and would welcome a scheme that would reduce the variability.

Blade Farming MD Richard Phelps said: We commissioned research to identify the sires of calves that were found to produce good beef. As a result, we are now recommending eight bulls to dairy farmers as Blade Star Sires. We need to improve calf quality by improving the genetics, but we must also focus on the health of the calf at a very early stage.
The new Star Sires Scheme, Blade Farming said, will focus on the South West, with an objective to expand the scheme providing that more beef finishers and processors come forward.

Phelps added: Farmers using semen from one of these bulls will gain either a good dairy heifer replacement or a male dairy calf that will give a good return instead of a disposal cost. The whole objective of the scheme is to increase the value of the calves by improving the beef qualities that should benefit British farming and create a viable alternative to shooting for the dairy farmer.

The scheme has been approved by Professor Jeff Wood from the University of Bristol, and Blade Farming has worked closely with Compassion in World Farming and the RSPCA.

The research into Blade Star Sires was carried out by Paul Westaway, a beef farmer who worked with a leading breeding company for nine years and who is currently chairman of the British Cattle Breeders Club.

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