Cork farmers dominate Dairy Beef Calf Programme

IFA Livestock Chairman Brendan Golden has encouraged suckler farmers to apply for the €40m BEEP (S), which also opened last week
Cork farmers dominate Dairy Beef Calf Programme

The objective of this measure is to increase the efficiency of beef from the dairy herd and to support farmers rearing progeny from the dairy herd.

The Dairy Beef Calf Programme has become an important scheme for Munster farmers since it was introduced in 2021. 

A collection of the latest news, views and analysis from the farming desk on the topic of Beef and Sheep.

Figures for that year show Cork dominated the scheme, with the €20 per eligible calf drawn for 27,031 animals in 1,187 herds. Farmers in Tipperary, with 15,805 animals in 620 herds, and in Limerick, with 10,240 animals in 463 herds, were also prominent in the scheme.

It also attracted farmers in Clare, Galway, Kerry and Kilkenny, with 6,000 to 7,000 calves each.

Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue has announced the opening for 2022 applications for the €5m Dairy Beef Calf measure. Applications can be lodged through with the closing date on Monday, April 25.

The objective of this measure is to increase the efficiency of beef from the dairy herd and to support farmers rearing progeny from the dairy herd. They each have to weigh between five and 40 live calves and dams and send the weights data to ICBF.

A continuation of the measure in 2023 is proposed as part of Ireland's CAP strategic plan which was submitted to the EU Commission at the end of 2021. The 2021 figures point to Munster’s growing influence in the beef industry because 60% of cattle processed in meat plants are currently of dairy origin.

Over the coming weeks, more than 350,000 dairy-bred calves under six weeks of age will be purchased by over 10,500 rearing herds, directly from dairy farms or via livestock marts.

According to Dr Nicky Byrne, Teagasc, Grange, Dunsany, Co. Meath, calf purchasers should prioritise herds that have a sustainable breeding policy, actively selecting high merit beef sires suitable for use on the dairy herd throughout the breeding season, using the dairy beef index (DBI), which identifies sires which will maintain calving performance (gestation length, calving difficulty and mortality) while offering greater terminal efficiency to finishers.

Purchasers of dairy-beef calves should focus on the beef sub-index of the sires' DBI, ensuring this contributes to 50% of the overall index, as this combines traits of greatest economic importance to beef systems, such as carcass weight, conformation and fat, and feed intake.

In his advice in the Spring Edition of the BeefHealthCheck Newsletter from Animal Health Ireland, Dr Byrne also pointed to the usefulness of the new commercial beef value (CBV) selection tool for buyers of dairy-beef calves.

As the level of genotyping in Irish dairy and suckler herds increases, more and more animals will be presented for sale with a genomic CBV figure. This ranks animals’ genetic merit for carcass weight, conformation and fat, docility and feed intake. It has proved to be an excellent predictor of beef performance, taking a lot of the guesswork out of buying dairy male calves only a few weeks old.

ICBF will work with marts to have CBVs shown on mart boards this year. Dr Byrne stressed the importance of calf care in the first 12 weeks on the new farm, a period that will determine much of the animal’s lifetime performance. 

At Teagasc Grange, more than 150 calves are purchased annually, from 35-40, at three weeks old. Calf mortality rate of less than 1.5% is achieved thanks to a herd health plan covering procurement and management. This includes checking the history of herd health, vaccination (for scour), colostrum and feed management, before buying calves which are individually visually checked for good health.

At Grange, calves are kept in groups of similar ages in a well-ventilated and clean environment until weaning. On arrival, they get two litres of electrolyte and are left to settle for 24 hours before they receive intra-nasal vaccines to boost immunity against bacterial/viral pathogens (IBR, RSV and Pi3).

Intramuscular Booster vaccinations are used thereafter, plus vaccination against clostridial disease, and anticoccidial drench. All calves over the last two years were reared on 4L/day (0.5kg solids) of milk replacer at 12.5% concentration in two feeds. 

This reduced level of milk promotes a high intake of concentrates from three weeks old, aiding rumen development and the transition phase between weeks four and eight when calves move from pre-ruminant to ruminant. From arrival, concentrates are offered ad-lib with high-quality barley straw and weaning begins at 90kg. Calves at Grange are 10.8 weeks at weaning, after ADG of 0.75kg. They are weaned gradually.


IFA Livestock Chairman Brendan Golden has encouraged suckler farmers to apply for the €40m BEEP (S), which also opened last week. The closing date is Monday, April 25. Participants may be eligible for up to €90 per pair for the first 10 suckler cow/calf pairs per herd and up to €80 per pair therefore subject to an overall maximum of 100 pairs per herd if all actions are applied for and completed in accordance with terms and conditions. 

BEEP (S) targets efficiency by measuring the live weight of the calf at weaning as a percentage of the cow's live weight. Applicants can also select optional health and welfare measures including meal feeding or vaccination of weanlings and/or faecal egg testing of suckler cows.

About 30,000 participated in the 2021 BEEP–S. Participants must submit a new application for 2022.

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Karen Walsh

Karen Walsh

Law of the Land


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