Beefing up fertility in Victoria

Like all dairy farmers, getting cows in calf is a priority for Simon Rea.

Milking 520 Holsteins at Panmure, calving mostly in the autumn, herd fertility is crucial.

“We’d reached a point where we realised, we were going to have enough Friesian heifer calves for replacements,” he said.

“That when we started using the ABS Beef InFocus™. The attraction was the claim it had a better fertility outcome, I don’t have perfect pregnancy-test records, but my gut feeling is they got in calf pretty well.”

ABS Beef InFocus is a modern genetic program for dairy herds, delivering off-spring suitable for the beef feeder market. The Beef InFocus sires have high semen fertility and produce calves with fast growth rates, feed efficiency and yield more saleable meat than traditional dairy-beef cross animals.

Simon reared 65 Beef InFocus calves born in April and May this year, with plans to sell them into the backgrounder market in the coming year.

“They are good little-doing calves, very healthy calves and they weren’t any trouble to rear at that time of year,” he said.

“As calves, they were pretty solid but certainly all came out without any dramas.”

Describing their birthweight as “fairly equal to the Friesians”, Simon said cows calved to Beef InFocus sires easier – even if the calves were large- and he believed this was due to the dimensions of the calves’ head.

The Beef InFocus semen followed the milking herd Holstein artificial insemination and replaced the need for a Holstein mop-up bull.

“I think a Friesian mop-up bull is a couple of dollars cheaper, but for me it wasn’t the economics,” Simon said.

“It was breeding a surplus of beef animals rather than a surplus of Friesian heifers and bulls.”

“Breeding with ABS Beef InFocus looks after either sex, and gives them an opportunity in life, that’s a good outcome for a dairy farm.  It’s also a way of minimising bull calves that would otherwise go onto the calf truck.”

Simon doesn’t want to sell any more heifers to the export market and in recent years has been building dairy herd numbers.

He views the beef market as sustainable – especially with current prices. “There’s always someone looking for a beef calf to buy,” he said.