Calves produced in dairy herds could help make up the shortfall in Scottish beef production and bolster abattoir throughput, a top level industry group has agreed.
With the red meat processing industry anxious to maintain critical mass during a decline in beef production, wholesalers, Scottish Government officials, farmers’ representatives, Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) and levy group AHDB met this week to consider how the beef sector can utilise the potential of calves produced by the dairy sector.
The meeting heard the UK is only 75% self-sufficient in beef and opportunities exist for import substitution and increased exports.
NFU Scotland (NFUS) said all agencies are now committed to working together to increase the quality and quantity of cattle from both the dairy and beef herds.
NFUS vice president, Gary Mitchell said: “The key focus of this meeting was to assess the potential for increased production of quality beef from the dairy sector to complement beef from the suckler sector.
“There was agreement that dairy has the potential to provide significant numbers of beef-bred animals for beef production if the breeding and systems on dairy farms can deliver the right product to rearers, finishers and processors, while meeting the needs of the final customers.
“The group agreed there is merit in exploring existing supply chain initiatives and assessing the potential in Scotland to develop pilot schemes.
“Also, assessing breeding, feeding and management systems; considering the potential to develop calf rearing systems with professional expertise and initiatives to streamline efficiency and collaboration.
“The encouraging aspect of this meeting was the acceptance by all, including Scottish Government, that beef production is an iconic sector in Scotland, and that collaboration from all players could build on the important contribution made by beef from our dairy herd.”
QMS Director of Industry Development, Douglas Bell, said both dairy cross and dairy-sired calves are potentially eligible to be marketed as Scotch Beef provided they meet the brand eligibility criteria.
He added: “Dairy farmers are increasingly using sexed semen to produce replacement heifers from high genetic merit cows.
“This means they can then use beef bulls with their remaining cows.
“Good use of Estimated Breeding Values also allows farmers to select beef bulls that will produce high quality calves suited to finishing systems or for use as replacement breeding females.”.