Boat Harbour dairy farmer and researcher and Nuffield scholar Thomas Snare has found a solution that improves farm profitability and addresses concern about treatment of dairy bull calves.
Mr Snare, who is also the farm manager at the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture dairy research facility, researched expanding the dairy industry by rearing dairy bull calves for beef consumption as part of his 2015 Nuffield Scholarship.
This research is set to drive farm improvement and productivity to ensure best practice and welfare standards across industry, Mr Snare said.
“Dairy bull calves are currently an underutilised co-product of dairy farming,” Mr Snare said.
“There is a real opportunity to value-add here in Australia, like in the UK and the US, where dairy origin beef makes up a significant proportion of total beef production.
“There are a number of factors that will drive greater success, including the need for farmers to produce quality bull calves and utilise beef genetics to increase carcass quality,” he said.
Mr Snare’s Nuffield Scholarship, which was supported by Dairy Australia, included visits to New Zealand, Japan, Western and Northern Europe and the Mid-West USA to learn from dairy leaders.
“It showed that there is a quality issue with the Jersey and Jersey cross bull calves currently produced in Australia, which in part can be corrected by better use of beef genetics, post artificial-insemination,” Mr Snare said.
“It’s also important to know that the seasonal nature of dairy production in Australia means lower asset utilisation in comparison to year-round calving systems in other countries.
“Working at all these elements – and keeping a closer eye on the beef market – to look for opportunities to value add will be beneficial in producing more, with less,” he said.
Mr Snare toured Toyota in Japan to learn about lean management, which drives productivity improvements.
“You don’t often think of applying lean management and agriculture,” Mr Snare said.
“Adding value to these animals, such as rearing and finishing at heavier weights, seems like a better solution and needs to continue to gain traction,” he said.
There is ongoing demand for Australian beef, which provides opportunity for the dairy industry under Mr Snare’s model, while also contributing to animal welfare outcomes.
“Processors will be prepared to come to the table for beef derived from dairy bulls, provided quality and volume can be guaranteed,” Mr Snare said.