Two agri-businesses have joined forces to launch an initiative aimed at “building a more sustainable market for dairy beef”.
Horizon, which has been developed by Dale Farm and ABP, is believed to be the first collaborative scheme of its kind in Northern Ireland.
It will provide a “guaranteed market for selectively bred dairy calves from Dale Farm members through the ABP supply chain”.
Horizon has been developed around environmental sustainability, product quality and farm-to-fork traceability, with a support structure provided to all participants to ensure high standards are adhered to, according to a statement.
There are three options are available to participants on the Horizon scheme.
Dale Farm members will have the option to breed part of their herd to selected Aberdeen Angus genetics. These calves will be collected by ABP, with a premium paid for achieving desired genetic traits.
Alternatively, Dale Farm or ABP farmers can opt to become a rearing farm for four-week-old calves. ABP will supply calf rearing inputs and provide support to maximise calf performance during the rearing period in terms of health and nutrition.
In return, farmers must adhere to a strict animal welfare and feeding regime. They will receive a management fee per calf plus a bonus for performance targets achieved.
The third option focuses on the finishing period. On-farm research by ABP has demonstrated that the use of superior genetics can result in production savings of up to £100 per head.
Farmers will be supported with expert input and advice to help achieve better growth rates, improved food conversion, enhanced animal welfare, best practice feeding regimes and grassland management.
Animals will be bred following “strict protocols” enabling them to be marketed at 20-21 months, some four-months below the UK average. This, the statement added, will ensure a significant reduction of emissions per animal resulting in a more carbon-efficient and lower cost of production model overall.
“Full product traceability will be guaranteed through the support of specialist partners within the scheme.”
“Feed supplier United Feeds will deliver nutritional and technical advice whilst genetics experts from AI Services and Genus ABS will provide guidance and insights to farmers on the scheme.” the statement added.
"Sustainable outlet for dairy-bred male calves"
George Mullan, Managing Director of ABP in Northern Ireland said Horizon will help create a sustainable future for Northern Irish Aberdeen Angus beef by fulfilling customer and consumer requirements for a product that adheres to stringent animal welfare and traceability standards and has the added competitive advantage of a reduced carbon footprint.
Nick Whelan, Group Chief Executive of Dale Farm said this partnership will offer our members the opportunity to create a “sustainable outlet” for dairy-bred male calves, in addition to an “incremental” revenue stream for participants.
“We have created a unique dairy beef scheme, driven by delivering genetic improvement through selective breeding.”
Farmers will provide high-quality calves into the Northern Ireland beef industry and, through the creation of a fully integrated supply chain, will enhance production efficiencies and reduce carbon footprint at farm level.” Whelan added.