Beefing up the national herd with dairy cattle
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’