HOLSTEIN CALF PRICES
Holstein calves are a growing component of the U.S. feedlot population, though the number of animals remains well below beef-types. The number of dairy calves available is being supported by: 1) modest dairy cow herd growth; 2) reductions in calves processed for veal (averaging about 7% below a year ago since mid-August of this year); and 3) production systems that target raising Holstein calves from a very young age for feedlots. Given that the North American beef cowherd has shrunk in recent years. Holstein steers are the only growth category.
Looking at the special dairy sale report by USDA-AMS (Market News) for Springfield, Missouri provides some trends. The reported sale focuses on milk cow and heifer prices, but is also consistently reports baby calf prices. In January of this year, baby Holstein bulls were $120.00 to $180.00 per head, the June report was lower ($75.00 to $120.00) as feedstuff costs were a major headwind to calf prices. In the latest report (November), those bull calves were reported at $100.00 to $170.00. So, those prices have not moved up in parallel with beef-type calf prices. Of course baby Holstein bulls are much lighter weight than weaned beef-type calves.
An interesting sub-aspect aspect of the USDA-AMS report highlighted above are data they have not reported before. A few times this year, the report has included sales of baby calves that were “beef crossbred”. That category was reported in November at $230.00 to $240.00 per head, a premium over Holstein bulls of $100.00 per head. Those animals were likely produced using a sexed semen artificial insemination program, which has become a standard practice in the U.S. dairy industry to produce replacement heifers.
Though the numbers are very small, breeding Holstein cows to create a crossbred beef-type male calf may be establishing a toehold. Note that in Japan, a significant portion of their beef is from Holstein cows bred to beef-type bulls (i.e. F1 cross).