Press Centre

Supermarket sustainable dairy calfscheme generates an additional £2 million a year

ASDA is set to prevent the unnecessary export or slaughter at birth of unwanted bull dairy calves through the launch of its 360? Sustainable Dairy Calf Scheme.

After a successful trial, the initiative will launch, tying together ASDA’s DairyLink and BeefLink schemes and will put more than £2 million a year back into the pockets of its farmers. The supermarket estimates that if the rest of the industry followed suit, the move could generate a massive additional £50 million revenue for the British dairy and beef farming industry.

The 360? scheme takes a two-pronged approach to tackling the dairy bull calf issue. Firstly ASDA is making single-sexed semen affordable to its farmers which is reducing the number of bulls being born and so making the overall number born more manageable. Sexed semen is a technology endorsed by Compassion in World Farming who encourages its use. Now supporting this is the ASDA 180? Dairy Bull Scheme. This is a new ASDA BeefLink initiative, established in conjunction with ASDA’s long-term partner Anglo Beef Processors, which accommodates young dairy bulls into the standard ASDA range, eliminating the welfare issues associated with exporting and slaughtering of unwanted newborn dairy bull calves.

The initiative has the potential to accommodate all 20,000 of the calves born on ASDA DairyLink farms nationwide every year which accounts for up to eight per cent of its total buy. Dairy farmers are being encouraged to rear the calves on their farm as this offers the best possible welfare for the animals and offers a new stream of income for many dairy farmers.

The scheme means that dairy bulls will be reared up to the age of 12 months, almost twice the age of Rose veal. ASDA has reduced its carcass weight range to accommodate dairy bulls under the age of 12 months from 280-400kg to 180-260kg as well as significantly improving the pricing structure for these cattle.

Where dairy farmers are unable to rear the calves themselves, the animals can be domestically reared and finished by beef farmers supplying into the ASDA BeefLink scheme. The scheme offers British farmers a new low risk, minimal capital outlay option to beef rearing. With feed prices beginning to dip and beef prices climbing almost on a daily basis, it is also an attractive option due to the margins that can be achieved. The best bulls trialled for the scheme during the summer of 2008 netted the farmers a profit in excess of £200 per bull and this in a relatively short time frame compared to traditional rearing systems.

Currently, around 3,000 unwanted British dairy bull calves are being shot each week shortly after they’re born. A small number are reared in the UK for the niche Rose veal market – a cause recently championed by Janet Street-Porter in Channel 4’s The F Word. ASDA’s scheme, however, will see the bull calves reared to up to a year old and supply the main-stream British beef market.

Pearce Hughes, agricultural development manager for ASDA comments:

“This is not a token gesture – this is a genuine commitment to our dairy and beef farmers and we would encourage other major retailers to follow suit. There are significant economic advantages for our farmers, as well as improved welfare for British livestock.”

Dr Julia Wrathall, RSPCA head of Farm Animals Department

“The RSPCA very much welcomes this significant and innovative initiative from ASDA which has the potential to bring lasting and mutual benefits to animal welfare and industry alike. There has been a long-standing need for development of an economically viable model for the domestic rearing, finishing and marketing of male dairy calves and ASDA’s initiative should facilitate creation of a long-term and feasible solution for farmers, and a more welfare-friendly outlook for the calves.”

Adam Quinny, one of ASDA’s BeefLink suppliers comments:

“This is a real breakthrough for the industry which, with the current export ban, couldn’t have come at a better time. As a beef farmer, it is great to have a new market to sell dairy bull calves into. The scheme will allow farmers like myself to rear animals that we couldn’t in the past due to facility or feed cost reasons. The continued support by ASDA of sexed semen to produce dairy heifers will also mean that, in the long term, the industry can produce more beef crosses from the dairy herd. It is good to see ASDA working with the industry to find practical solutions to the difficulties we face.”

Posted in Press Centre on 15 September 2008