A recent Australian study tour across the United States of America (USA), 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 Department of Primary Industries Development Specialist Peter Havrlant was awarded a Churchill Fellowship to tour the USA, United Kingdom, Ireland, Netherlands and New Zealand to identify production systems and carcass specifications that would maximise the value of male dairy calves.
On his USA leg of the tour, Peter was joined by Jamie McNeil from Dairy Australia, Dr Sarah Chaplin from Agriculture Victoria, and Jessira Perovic from Meat and Livestock Australia.
The touring group investigated dairy beef system production in three USA states, being 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.
Agriculture Victoria Dairy Development Specialist, Dr Sarah Chaplin, said the group felt Australian producers could learn significantly from USA 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,” Dr Chaplin said.
“While there are some aspects of the USA 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 include 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.”
A full tour 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’).
The USA tour was sponsored by Dairy Australia, Agriculture Victoria, NSW Department of Primary Industries, and Meat and Livestock Australia.