The Horizon scheme is the first collaboration of its kind in Northern Ireland and will provide a guaranteed market for selectively bred dairy calves from Dale Farm members through the ABP supply chain.
According to a joint statement from the two businesses, Horizon will seek to respond to the increasing market demand for quality Northern Irish beef, sourced securely, within a shorter supply chain and with a reduced carbon footprint.
Under Horizon, animals will be bred following strict protocols enabling them to be marketed at 20-21 months, some four months below the UK average to ensure a significant reduction of emissions per animal.
Various options are available to participants on the Horizon scheme. Dale Farm members will have the option to breed part of their herd to selected Aberdeen Angus genetics which will be collected by ABP, with a premium paid for achieving desired genetic traits.
Alternatively, Dale Farm or ABP farmers can opt to become a rearing farm for four-week-old calves. In this case, ABP will supply calf rearing inputs and provide support to maximise calf performance during the rearing period in terms of health and nutrition. However, farmers must adhere to a strict animal welfare and feeding regime, and will receive a management fee per calf plus a bonus for performance targets achieved.
The third option focuses on the finishing period. Research by ABP shows that the of superior genetics can result in production savings of up to £100 per head. Farmers will be supported with expert input and advice to help achieve better growth rates, improved food conversion, enhanced animal welfare, best practice feeding regimes and grassland management. Finishing farms that follow best practice production efficiencies can achieve improved financial returns.
Full product traceability will be guaranteed through the support of specialist partners within the scheme including feed supplier United Feeds that will deliver nutritional and technical advice whilst genetics experts from AI Services and Genus ABS will provide guidance and insights to farmers on the scheme.
Group chief executive of Dale Farm Nick Whelan said: “Dale Farm’s core purpose is built around protecting the generational sustainability of our farmers’ businesses. This partnership with ABP will offer our members the opportunity to create a sustainable outlet for dairy bred male calves, in addition to an incremental revenue stream for participants.
“We have created a unique dairy beef scheme, driven by delivering genetic improvement through selective breeding. We have also designed Horizon to provide farmers with flexibility and control so they can continue to use their feed supplier of choice for cattle outside the scheme. Farmers will provide high quality calves into the Northern Ireland beef industry and, through the creation of a fully integrated supply chain, will enhance production efficiencies and reduce carbon footprint at farm level. This marks a significant opportunity for our farmer members and an important development for our business.”
Managing director of ABP in Northern Ireland George Mullan added: “Dairy beef now accounts for a significant proportion of beef cattle in Northern Ireland.
“Horizon will help create a sustainable future for Northern Irish Aberdeen Angus beef by fulfilling customer and consumer requirements for a product that adheres to stringent animal welfare and traceability standards and has the added competitive advantage of a reduced carbon footprint. We are delighted to partner with Northern Ireland’s leading dairy cooperative, Dale Farm, in launching this initiative.”