Dairy-beef calves: current practices and views of calf producers and rearers

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Abstract

In the United Kingdom, there has been a year-on-year increase in the number of dairy-beef cross calves being born as a result of the increasing use of sexed dairy semen in dairy herds. These dairy-beef cross calves tend to be sold pre-weaned for further rearing on another unit and enter the beef production cycle. As part of the study, a small selection of semi-structured qualitative interviews was carried out with dairy farmers (calf producers; n=5) and calf rearers (n=7). The aim of these interviews was to explore the current practices carried out by each group in terms of calf sales, calf purchasing decisions, transfer of information and the information they would be willing to share/receive. The analysis of the interviews highlighted that the calf rearers tended to select calves for purchase by visual assessment based on the appearance of the calves for their age. Apart from the statutory requirements, no additional information, such as immunity status, prior health events and treatments, was formally transferred between parties. Any information that was transferred between calf producers and calf rearers was usually gathered via informal dialogue. All the calf rearers conveyed a desire to obtain as much information as possible about the calves they were purchasing. There was an expression of interest from the calf producers in receiving feedback about the subsequent performance of their calves whilst on the rearing unit but none of them actively pursued this type of information. Calf producers also highlighted the need to establish a good personal reputation as a producer of calves that met the market requirements. Some calf rearers said that they were now selecting calves with genetics that suited their production system. Calf producers all believed that such calves were a valuable additional source of financial income to their business and questioned such calves being referred to as ‘surplus’. The calf rearers interviewed stated that they preferred to group calves by source farm when they received them at their rearing unit with health being quoted as the main reason for this practice. Overall, the interviews illustrated the themes of appropriate terminology, selection of the correct genetics, good communication, developing relationships and reputation.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPrint publication - 30 Aug 2023
EventJoint International Congress on Animal Science 2023: Co-organised by the EAAP, WAAP and Interbull - Lyon, France
Duration: 26 Aug 20231 Sept 2023
Conference number: 74th

Conference

ConferenceJoint International Congress on Animal Science 2023: Co-organised by the EAAP, WAAP and Interbull
Abbreviated titleEAAP2023
Country/TerritoryFrance
CityLyon
Period26/08/231/09/23

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