Options for Pure Dairy-bred Male Calves

Project number:                    72604

Lead contractor:                   Promar International

Start & end date:                   30 July 2011 – 30 November 2011


The Problem:

The profitability of any beef finishing system is acutely dependent on feed prices.  This sensitivity is even more apparent for pure dairy-bred male finishing systems where the feed conversion efficiency is worse than that of continental bred cattle.

In view of this and the fact the cereal prices fluctuate, sometimes to price points that make intensive finishing of pure dairy bred males unprofitable, there is a need to raise awareness within the industry of the alternative options for finishing these cattle.


Project Aims:

To draw on information from around the world and from farmers in the UK to compile a critical review of the options for these calves to help English producers assess the choices.



To deliver a technical report and case studies covering the deliverables outlined below.



A technical report drawing on evidence and experience from around the world and commercial opportunities in the UK is required covering the following areas from an English perspective:

  • Current and potential veal production systems and market opportunities in the UK (to include specifications for the main markets open to English producers).
  • Alternative feeds for intensive finishing systems, covering availability and nutritional composition and implications for cost of production, performance and infrastructure/system changes.
  • Bull finishing systems including maize silage and grass silage and other forages such as red clover.
  • The potential to graze bulls for part of their lifetime: grazing systems, performance, and costs/returns.
  • Evaluation of the advantages and disadvantages of castration of male calves with regard to their subsequent physical and financial performance.

Systems for finishing pure dairy steers: system blue prints, performance, and costs/returns (including intensive systems and forage based systems.