Calf rearing opportunities waiting for enthusiastic younger farmers

Farming UK - Younger farmers, looking for a business start in the livestock sector, could use specialist beef calf rearing as a springboard for their ambitions, the National Beef Association has suggested.
calendar icon 4 July 2007
clock icon 2 minute read

It says there is a shortage of good calf rearers across the UK and because beef from the dairy herd accounts for 49 per cent of all prime cattle slaughtered it is important that this important link in a production chain that spans the dairy herd and the specialist finisher is maintained.

"Calf rearing is a commercial activity that should appeal to young people with energy and an eye for detail but still lack the capital, or the seniority, to take on a complete farm enterprise of their own," explained NBA chief executive, Robert Forster.

"There can be no doubt that successful rearing is a precise exercise but good units do not require a huge capital investment. Former cubicle sheds can be converted for £10,000-£15,000 and fans are also available to ventilate other existing buildings that appear at first to be unsuitable."

"In addition to this low capital requirement there would be a zero land cost if the potential rearer is still living with their parents. So if they can secure fixed price contracts with a feeder, or an agent company that can transfer the reared calves for him, it should be a relatively profitable exercise well able to establish a young starter with a reasonable living."

According to the NBA more specialist dairy beef feeder/finishers want to establish strong links with well organised rearers.

"There is a an overwhelming view that while calf rearers occupy a critical position in the dairy beef supply chain there are not enough of them and too many calves are not reared as well as they should be," said Mr Forster.

"They are looking for businesses that can organise regular supplies of calves from dairy farms that are not too old, and have been fed well on colostrum and can turn these out at 130 kilo at around 70 days."

"Current gross margins are estimated at £50-£60 a head so numbers are required to dilute overheads and generate a living."

"It may even be possible to link up with large processors who either will be, or are already, setting up integrated rearing chains which include contract finishers to make sure their businesses have easier access to predictable supplies of finished, dairy-bred, cattle."

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