The dairy beef supply chain is a well-known and well-established industry in the United States.
A recent study tour to the US inspected and reported on options for rearing and marketing calves, including ways to improve the management and value of surplus dairy calves in Australia.
NSW DPI development specialist Peter Havrlant was awarded a Churchill Fellowship to tour the US, United Kingdom, Ireland, Netherlands and New Zealand to identify production systems and carcase specifications that would maximise the value of male dairy calves.
On the US leg of his tour, Mr Havrlant was joined by Jamie McNeil from Dairy Australia, Agriculture Victoria dairy development specialist Sarah Chaplin and Jessira Perovic from Meat & Livestock Australia.
The touring group investigated dairy beef system production in three US states — Texas, California and Wisconsin.
The group visited two processors, two feedlots with Holsteins on feed, two calf ranches and three dairies with large-scale calf rearing, one of which also backgrounds crossbred dairy/beef calves.
Dr Chaplin said the group felt Australian producers could learn significantly from US systems of calf rearing.
‘‘Some of the knowledge gathered on increasing the efficiency and productivity of calf rearing included colostrum and milk feeding practices, labour management, data recording and use, and understanding of calf rearing costs,’’ she said.
‘‘While there are some aspects of the US systems that could not be applied in Australia, several opportunities to improve the utilisation of male dairy calves were identified.’’
Dr Chaplin said some examples included identifying a premium market for dairy animals, using beef breeds over late calving or lower indexing animals to produce a more valuable calf, and establishing organised systems of calf rearing with outsourcing to specialised calf growers.
‘‘Research is already being planned to improve our understanding of the nutritional requirements and performance of dairy beef animals under feedlot conditions in Australia,’’ she said.
The tour was sponsored by Dairy Australia, Agriculture Victoria, NSW DPI and Meat & Livestock Australia.
■A full report on the insights gained from visits to research leaders, farm businesses and processors involved in the dairy beef supply chain in Texas, California and Wisconsin is available on the Dairy Australia website: www.dairyaustralia.com.au (search for ‘dairy beef’).