Beefing up dairy income streams

Beefing up dairy income streams

Beef
 GOING STRONG: Ballyvernston farm manager Clayton Smith with Angus-dairy calves.

GOING STRONG: Ballyvernston farm manager Clayton Smith with Angus-dairy calves.

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Milk producers ramp up use of beef semen.

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Western Victoria's Sam and Christine McCluggage currently have 150 Angus-Holstein calves on deck at their pasture-based Allansford dairy operation.


The McCluggages are third generation dairy farmers who milk 700 Holsteins at Ballyvernston with per-cow production averaging 550kg milk solids per annum.

For the past 12 years they have grown out their calves, a decision that was primarily animal-welfare driven but also to value add.

SEE: Milk producers eye off feedlot demand.

"With depressed milk prices, we made a concerted effort to grow our livestock sales and we've leased extra country to do that. We wanted to build in diversification so we're not relying solely on milk," Mr McCluggage said.

Livestock today accounts for 25 to 30 per cent of their operation, compared to the original 8pc.

Maiden heifers are joined to sexed semen and eligible milking cows, generating 400 black and white heifers a year.

"That gives us plenty to choose from and we keep the best 200 as replacements, with the rest going to the live export market or local dairy farmers," Mr McCluggage said.

The hundred black and white bulls are grown out to 18 months to 2.5 years and sold as commercial mop-up bulls.

For the past two years, ABS Beef InFocus semen has been used on the older cows, low producers or ones with calving issues.

"We thought there could be a gap with the beef cattle shortage looming," Mr McCluggage said.

"The beef-dairy calf offers the potential for a lot more value. And the thing about them is you can sell them at ten days or seven months or a couple of years, depending on what sort of season you are having."

Good rain at Allansford this season means feed will be carried through for longer, so the couple plan to take this crop of beef-dairy calves through for much longer.

"We think cattle with weight at that stage will be worth a bit," Mr McCluggage said.

"If we do come into a pinch we can send them straight away but the heavier we can get them the more they'll be worth."

Mr McCluggage said there had been no calving issues and the Angus-cross were resilient calves to rear.

They are housed in the shed for two weeks on excess milk, then they move onto milk powder, grain mix and pasture.

"They don't walk as much as Holsteins and get a real condition on them early compared to the straight dairy calves," Mr McCluggage said.

"Because they've been handfed as a young calf and we move them around a fair bit, on the whole there's not much fuss about them."



The story Beefing up dairy income streams first appeared on Farm Online.

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