The current issue regarding dairy calves is more a beef price than a dairy calf issue, according to Dr. Frank O’Mara, director of research, Teagasc.
Speaking during a joint Oireachtas committee meeting on Teagasc’s annual report 2018 on Tuesday, December 17th, he said: “If the price of beef was €4 or €4.50, then there would be no problem selling all the calves born in the country.”
“The problem is we have a major profitability problem for every beef animal.”
“For a suckler farmer, the calves are arriving and there is not much that can be done about that.” he added.
“Live exports may not last forever”
He believes that sexed semen is part of a solution. “We see that going beyond the Jerseys, because the problem cohort of calves are the male calves born when a farmer is trying to breed replacements.”
“The more we can reduce the number of those, the less of a problem we will have. It is certainly not only an issue with Jerseys.”
He noted that of the approximate 200,000 calves exported in 2018, the majority were black-and-white.
“We have to think about the long term as well and how are we going to be able to rear those calves for a good future in Ireland. Live exports may not last forever.”
He said that this is a “complex” problem and the solution is “not as simple” as just a change in the EBI or anything like that.
“That in itself is a complex issue because the EBI is not just a group of people sitting around a table dreaming up ideas for more of this or that.”
“An economic model is involved in putting weightings on things in the EBI, so we advise care in meddling with something that has been successful for dairy farmers for the past 20 years.”
“We should stick to the principles of science in setting the weightings on the EBI. I am not stating that the EBI is not part of the solution, but there are other ways.”
“I refer to sexed semen and the dairy beef-index that will turn around the problem much faster than can be achieved via the EBI.” he concluded.