Teagasc trials of a dairy calf to beef system have yielded a gross margin of €634/ha in the first results of the two-year study.
However, the profitability of dairy beef will be highly sensitive to the price of a beef carcass at the time of slaughter, Teagasc researcher Paul Crosson warned.
The first batch of heifers from Teagasc's dairy calf to beef trial at Johnstown Castle were recently slaughtered. The Hereford and Angus cross heifers were bought in as 14-day-old calves in spring 2011 at €250/hd and reared on grass that summer, with 1kg of ration.
They were moved on to high quality silage and 1kg of concentrate during winter housing and then finished off grass at the end of their second summer with no concentrate feeding.
The heifers had an average slaughter weight of 460kg at 19 months of age and killed out at 51pc, giving a carcass weight of 235kg. They ate 359kg of concentrate per head and their liveweight gain from grass was 71kg.
Based on the carcass price of €3.93/hd, the heifers left a margin over direct costs of €634 per hectare (€213/hd) and a margin over total costs of €153/ha (€51/hd).
However, a difference of 10c/kg in the carcass price would affect the margin over direct costs by €70/ha or €23/hd, the study showed.
Teagasc head of livestock systems Padraig French said the margin over direct costs of €634/ha, based on a stocking rate of 3LU/ha or 170kg N/ha, was comparable to any other system of beef production.
"Overall this is a very sustainable model of beef production," he added. "It's nearly all done off grass, the animals are finished young and there is no suckler cow to carry so it will have a lower carbon footprint than other systems."
- Caitriona Murphy
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