Beef­ing up the na­tional herd with dairy cat­tle

The Scotsman - - Weater / Farming - By BRIAN HEN­DER­SON bhen­der­son@farm­ing.co.uk

Get­ting the right an­i­mals to meet the needs of rear­ers, fin­ish­ers, meat pro­ces­sors – and the fi­nal con­sumer – will play a key role in gain­ing wider up­take of beef cat­tle sourced from Scot­land’s dairy herd.

With the num­ber of suck­ler cows con­tin­u­ing to fall, and pro­ces­sors of­ten cry­ing out for more, fears have been raised that Scot­land’s world-fa­mous beef in­dus­try could be in dan­ger of los­ing the crit­i­cal mass re­quired to sup­port the un­der­ly­ing in­fra­struc­ture of the trade.

And ear­lier this week an in­dus­try-wide meet­ing took place to con­sider the role which the dairy sec­tor could play in pro­duc­ing a greater pro­por­tion of the quality side of the coun­try’s red meat.

“Beef pro­duc­tion and pro­cess­ing in Scot­land faces chal­lenges in­clud­ing, first and fore­most, lev­els of prof­itabil­ity that are, at best, mar­ginal,” said NFU Scot­land vice-chair­man Gary Mitchell. “That has seen a de­cline in over­all beef pro­duc­tion and pro­cess­ing ca­pac­ity and risks to crit­i­cal mass.”

Speak­ing af­ter the meet­ing – which had sup­port from all sec­tors of the beef busi­ness, in­clud­ing the Scot­tish Govern­ment, the Agri­cul­tural and Hor­ti­cul­tural De­vel­op­ment Board (AHDB); Quality Meat Scot­land (QMS), the Scot­tish Agri­cul­tural Or­gan­i­sa­tion So­ci­ety (SAOS), the Scot­tish As­so­ci­a­tion of Meat Whole­salers (SAMW), beef pro­ces­sors Scot­beef and ABP, the Scot­tish Dairy Hub and SRUC – he said: “The meet­ing high­lighted the fact that all play­ers with Scot­tish red meat and dairy in­ter­ests are com­mit­ted to max­imis­ing the po­ten­tial for beef pro­duc­tion from the dairy herd in Scot­land.”

He said that with the UK only 75 per cent self suf­fi­cient in beef, all sec­tors were com­mit­ted to work­ing to­gether to in­crease the quality and quan­tity of cat­tle from both dairy and beef herds which were pre­sented for pro­cess­ing.

He said that such a move was fea­si­ble given the strength of the Scot­tish brand, backed by the work and rep­u­ta­tion of farm­ers, pro­ces­sors and QMS.

“The group agreed there is merit in ex­plor­ing ex­ist­ing sup­ply chain ini­tia­tives; as­sess­ing the po­ten­tial in Scot­land to de­velop pi­lot schemes; as­sess­ing breed­ing, feed­ing and man­age­ment sys­tems; con­sid­er­ing the po­ten­tial to de­velop calf rear­ing sys­tems with pro­fes­sional ex­per­tise and ini­tia­tives to stream­line ef­fi­ciency and col­lab­o­ra­tion,” said Mitchell.

Dou­glas Bell, di­rec­tor of in­dus­try de­vel­op­ment with QMS, said that the move rep­re­sented an “ex­cit­ing op­por­tu­nity” for the Scot­tish beef in­dus­try.

He said that both dairy cross and dairy sired calves were cur­rently po­ten­tially el­i­gi­ble to be mar­keted as Scotch Beef, pro­vided they meet the brand el­i­gi­bil­ity cri­te­ria – and added that dairy farm­ers were in­creas­ingly us­ing sexed se­men to pro­duce re­place­ment heifers for their herds: “This means they can then use beef bulls with their re­main­ing cows. Use of es­ti­mated breed­ing val­ues also al­lows farm­ers to se­lect beef bulls which will pro­duce high quality calves.”

Dairy cat­tle can of­fer a so­lu­tion to beef ‘short­age’

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