BEEFCONNECT PROVING A SUCCESS ON FARM
Cheshire dairy farmer Rob Sims was one of the first in the country to join up to the Beef Connect scheme and is already seeing the benefits.
Under the arrangement, farmers use Genus ABS Aberdeen Angus sires with calves moved to an ABP dedicated rearing unit, allowing greater transparency and the opportunity to collect data on growth rates, feed efficiency, carcase quality and other factors that affect the price received and potential margin for beef finishers.
With a flying herd of 260 spring calvers, the value of the beef calf crop is a major factor for Rob who farms at Marton, near Macclesfield, running the herd with herd manager Stephen Reade. The herd is run on a simple system with the emphasis on utilisation of grass, averaging 5,600 litres from 800kg of concentrates.
Cows are outwintered and are bought in to calve in straw yards before being turned out again the day after calving. This means calving ease is a high priority.
“We want the cow to calve easily and back up on her feet quickly. She also had to be ready to rebreed soon to maintain the calving block,” Rob comments. “At the same time we want a good calf value.”
All cows are served to AI and Rob had been using Genus ABS British Blue calving surveyed bulls. While happy with the calves, he wanted to improve subsequent conception rates so decided to make the switch to easy calving Aberdeen Angus.
Calves are fed colostrum immediately after calving with all colostrum tested for quality using a colostrometer. They are moved into starter pens before moving onto an adlib calf machine. They are bedded on straw.
Calves were being sold to local markets and more recently Rob had been selling around 90% of the calf crop to a calf marketing organisation with calves typically sold at 3-4 weeks old based on visual assessment. While the Belgian Blues were being sold at around 60kg, the Angus calves were targeted at 50kg.
Given that he was producing the breed and type of calf required for BeefConnect, Genus ABS Rob Warrington suggested they consider joining the scheme.
He arranged a visit from Rob Ashmore from ABP who assessed the calf rearing management against the scheme protocols and weighed some of the calves. Not only did the management meet the required standard, but several calves were identified that could be moved on having reached the target weight.
Based on the initial visit, Rob Sims agreed to join BeefConnect and is already seeing the benefits.
“It was certainly an eye opener to see that we could be moving calves sooner,” he continues. “With the block calved herd space can become a real issue and it is a great advantage to be able to move calves out younger.
“Now we are weighing calves prior to sale, we have seen we are achieving growth rates close to 1kg/day and are selling out at 2-3 weeks old, saving around a week per calf.
“This means we are saving on milk replacer and bedding costs and it takes less time to see to the calves every day which is another advantage. Combined with the better price, this means the margin on the calf crop will have improved.”
Rob is also convinced of the benefits of a more connected and traceable supply chain. “As an industry, a more joined up supply chain has to be a good thing and can help repair the damage caused by BSE and other issues. We have the opportunity to produce more beef and offset imports but must be more efficient. Hopefully the added benefits of more performance data for the bulls will drive efficiency further leading to more margin to be spread across the chain.”
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