Publication

Dairy beef production as an alternative to supplying the dairy company

Date
2017-07-01
Type
Dissertation
Abstract
Dairy farmers in New Zealand are vulnerable to changes in milk payout which can be substantial. A potential option for dairy farmers is to alter their system in low payout years to dairy beef, preferentially feeding milk to the calves to achieve higher growth rates so a fodder beet wintering system can be used to finish them at under 18 months of age. High input artificial rearing, continuous milk, nurse cows and dam rearing can all achieve growth rates of ≥1 kg/d. Nurse cows were discounted for reasons of practicality and the other systems were modelled and compared to a traditional dairy replacement rearing system with all calves going into a fodder beet wintering system. Artificial rearing of calves born by 1 August with high levels of milk fed is the alternative system recommended for dairy beef as it achieves live weight targets going on to fodder beet and at slaughter. Males finished at 553.7 kg live weight (310.0 kg carcass weight) and heifers at 497.5 kg live weight (271.0 kg carcass weight) were analysed at a range of milk and beef prices with profits per head of -$39.72 to $879.78 for males and -$215.22 to $626.28 for heifers. Artificial rearing of calves born by 1 September failed to achieve live weight targets by 1 April and then 25 December. Traditional dairy replacement rearing was the most profitable, but failed to achieve live weight targets and was used more to show how ecconomic the system for rearing replacement is compared with systems prioritising growth. Of the alternative systems dam rearing was the most profitable with profits per head of $26.77 to $1,025.02 for males and -$139.74 to $784.52 for heifers, but was not recommended on the basis of practicality and a shortage of supporting evidence. Continuous mik was the last profitable with profits per head of -$167.34 to $805.41 for males and -$342.84 to $ 551.91 for heifers. Heifers were less profitable than steers or bulls because of their lower growth rates and carcass weight percentages (54.5% vs. 56%). Provided calves can be grown fast enough for slaughter before their second winter dairy beef can be a profitable alternative to sending milk to the dairy company at appropriate milk and beef payouts. It should be practical for farmers to adapt their systems temporarily to increase profitability.