Thousands of UK dairy farmers will have to track all their calves – including bull calves – for the first eight weeks of life from January. But there is no easy way to do this without rearing them on-farm; until now.
Opening up access to new markets and streamlining data compliance is the free Breedr app. Its founders have been working with the dairy industry to bring farmers closer together, fulfil Arla’s new eight-week reporting requirements, and help producers add value to their stock.
“We have been trialling the app with several Arla farmers, and it’s proven a tremendous success,” explains co-founder Ian Wheal. “Producers simply enter their calf data and sync the app with BCMS so that – with the right permissions – they can track the calves wherever they are reared, and produce an automatic eight-week report.”
In a bid to match up dairy farmers with potential calf rearers, Breedr is also launching a new online marketplace, helping producers to either form their own dedicated supply chain or sell calves to a range of local rearers and finishers. “We firmly believe that farmers are stronger together – and by taking out the middleman and offering greater transparency, we can help producers to improve their margins and productivity,” says Mr Wheal.
Dairy farmers will be able to sell their calves through the app commission-free until the end of April 2021.
Patrick Morris-Eyton milks 230 Holstein cows at Beckside Farm in the Lake District, and started selling to a dedicated calf rearer – Damien Whiteman – 11 months ago. “It’s really taken the pressure off at our end; it saves space and time requirements,” he says. Both farmers use the Breedr app, meaning they know when calves will be ready to move, and ensuring traceability for Arla’s eight-week report.
Not only that: By monitoring which calves perform the best at Mr Whiteman’s farm, the duo have identified the optimum sire choice and calf management protocols, boosting overall productivity and financial returns. “I can put all of my colostrum and medicine treatments into the app, so Damien can see what the calves have had,” explains Mr Morris-Eyton. “And I’m now even more conscious that the colostrum quality is correct – it’s as important for the beef calves as the Holstein heifers.”
For those who are rearing or finishing beef calves, the app has another trick up its sleeve: It can predict the optimum sale date, helping producers to maximise efficiencies and financial returns. “If you weigh your animals regularly, the app will record daily liveweight gains and predict growth rates,” explains Mr Wheal. “This helps producers to identify and manage under-performing animals and better meet target carcass specifications.”
And that’s where the flow of data can add further value, helping farmers to make marginal gains every step of the way. “Ultimately, breeders can identify the best stock for the finished market, improving returns and the final beef-eating experience.”
If the dairy producer can see results of their actions, that’s a real positive, says Richard Simpson, development director at Kingshay dairy consultants. “They can improve their management and calf value. What Breedr offers is an opportunity for farmers to have that insight after the animal has left the farm. Longer term, breeding decisions are led by what the market wants. Once all the parties see the benefits of sharing data it’s a win-win.”
• Breedr is holding a webinar series for dairy farmers, entitled: Dairy beef calves of the future. The monthly series will explore how UK dairy farmers can streamline their dairy beef production and work with other farmers to deliver a step-change in beef productivity post-Brexit.
The first episode: Adding value to dairy beef, will be held on Thursday, 17th December at 7pm. Join dairy farmer Patrick Morris-Eyton and Breedr product manager James Wright as they explore how simple processes can add significant value to dairy beef calves.
Visit www.breedr.co/dairy or sign-up for the webinar series using the link below