About four out of every five UK suckler producers could improve their profitability significantly by targeting a two-year first calving age, according to Richard Fuller, technical director with the Stabiliser Cattle Company.
Speaking at the Beef Improvement Group conference at the Thainstone Exchange, Inverurie, he pointed out that around 80% of suckler herds record a first calving date for heifers of between two and a half and three years, at least six months longer than the optimum.
“Age at first calving is a major contributor to profitability in a beef suckler herd and the fact that the vast majority are so far away from the optimum achievable is a massive cost to individual businesses and the beef industry as a whole,” he said.
“The aim should be to breed suckler cows that will produce eight live calves in a 10-year productive life and that means starting with a target age of two years for the first calving. This is achievable by concentrating on the important maternal traits when breeding replacement sucklers, including early onset of puberty, fertility and calving ease.
“We calculate the extra calf output per year achievable from two-year first calving to be over £80 per cow per year, at current values, when compared with the industry average.”