Demand for Angus and Hereford crossbred calves from the dairy herd far exceeds supply and the gap in the market should be exploited by farmers to produce high-value beef for niche markets, a Bord Bia market analyst has claimed.
Joe Burke, livestock manager with Bord Bia, said there was massive potential for early maturing beef breeds such as Angus and Hereford to be used on the expanding dairy herd.
"These crossbred calves could be marketed as a high-value product to existing markets, as well as new markets," he told farmers at a dairy calf to beef open day hosted by Teagasc at Johnstown Castle last week.
Niche breed-specific beef brands have already proven phenomenally successful internationally, he told the conference. The US-based Certified Angus brand, founded in 1978 by the American Angus Association, has become the most successful brand of fresh beef in the world.
"Over 250,000t of Certified Angus beef is sold every year, accounting for over 1.8m cattle," he said. "That's more than the entire Irish meat industry processes in a year."
Premium payments available through the Irish Hereford Prime and Certified Angus schemes with ABP plants are an added incentive for Irish to use these crossbred calves.
Irish Hereford Prime is currently offering bonuses of 15-25c/kg on Hereford heifer crosses under 300kg grading at O+ 4-, depending on the booking date for slaughter.
With around 15,000 cattle slaughtered through Hereford Prime this year, Michael Cleary from Irish Hereford Prime said the group is actively seeking more cattle and could take up to 30,000 cattle in the coming years.
The Irish Angus Producers Group offers bonuses of 10-25c/kg for carcases of 220-380kg grading better than O= and from fat scores of 2+ to 4+. Specialised producers with higher numbers of cattle can avail of bonuses of 25-40c/kg for the same grades and all bonuses are based on the time of year.
With 48,000 cattle slaughtered through the scheme last year, this figure looks set to hit 60,000 in 2012 and there is capacity to increase numbers considerably.
"We would have no difficulty in going to 100,000 cattle due to demand for the product," said Charles Smith of the Irish Angus Producers Group.
However, Don O'Brien of ABP warned that while there was room for growth in this niche business, it was crucial to target additional cattle only at times of year when supplies were low.
- Caitriona Murphy
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