The trend for dairy farmers to move away from breeding bobby calves in favour of quality dairy/beef cross calves which are fetching record prices, is reflected in the success of feeder calf sales in Dannevirke.
Calves have been in demand from rearers, finishers and the meat processing industry and with 4-day-old bobby calves fetching between $20 and $40 on the bobby calf truck, the payback for quality dairy/beef bull calves selling at $150 to $300 has been a win-win for dairy farmers, Doug Lineham, project manager for the dairy beef integration project said.
"New Zealand is suffering from a shortage of quality table beef - the national herd of beef cows is now below one million so the red meat sector is looking to the dairy industry to help it meet demand.
"That's a win-win for dairy farmers who, by simply changing their breeding strategy to include proven beef genetics, can treble their calf cheque."
Rachel Hooper, of Taihape, was at the feeder calf sales in Dannevirke for the past three weeks, buying on average 25 calves at each sale.
"They were very good quality for the money," she said.
Hooper had paid between $115 to $130 and was happy to pay top price for Angus cross calves on the last sale day.
"They are little rippers," she said.
NZ Farmers Livestock auctioneers Cameron Smith and Tristan Gordon put the good calf prices in Dannevirke down to the high beef prices, with early sales of Friesian weaners at Rongotea in Manawatu averaging between $400 and $450 a head.
With prices reaching up to $210 for a bull calf sold in Dannevirke which was described by Smith as "a beauty, with all the right markings," the sales were worthwhile for dairy farmers.
And as buyers became desperate to get their quota before the supply dried up, large Angus calves were making up to $190 a head at the Dannevirke sales.
"All, in all, it was a good feeder calf sale season for us," Gordon told the Dannevirke News. "There were some pretty happy sellers out there."
And the trend seems likely to continue with Malcolm Ellis, general manager New Zealand markets for LIC, saying orders for beef straws are up more than 53 per cent on last year.
"Farmers are certainly looking to diversify their spring income streams.
''We are seeing an increased trend to mate poorer quality cows to SGL Hereford from day one."
CRV Ambreed's sales and marketing manager, Mathew Macfie, reports a similar trend in demand for proven beef genetics.
"There has been a tremendous upsurge in demand this year - orders are flooding in," he said.
Next Tuesday, November 8, the first Dannevirke and Pahiatua combined weaner calf sale of the season will be held in the Dannevirke Saleyards at 11.30am.
Lines include 100 autumn born Friesian/Hereford cross heifers, 20 autumn born, Friesian/Hereford cross bulls, 620 spring Friesian bulls, 100 spring beef cross bulls and 100 spring beef cross heifers.
Auctioneer Bjorn Anderson said the stock on offer was good quality and the bulk of the yarding were home-bred stock.