Demand for dairy calves has grown from strength to strength at Buitelaar’s first Scottish Calf Collection Centre, in Castle Douglas, which aims to open on a weekly basis.

The centre, which is one of four Buitelaar collection units, which also operates out of Wrexham, Frome, and Haddiport, is based at Wallet’s Mart, Castle Douglas, and is headed up by Liz Hoggarth and a team of six. Currently open every fortnight, on alternate Mondays, the plan is to operate on a weekly basis.

Liz explains “When we opened, we initially were receiving about 30 calves every fortnight, but the word about the centre has got out and we are currently taking in the region of 200-250 calves from more than 30 farms in the area. Our forward plan is to receive more than 300 calves a week.

“Our calves are sourced from Buitelaar-approved dairy farms and assessed on their standards of early-stage calf-rearing, health recording and housing,” Liz added.

This attention to detail was recognised by Compassion in World Farming in 2020, when it awarded ‘The Good Calf Award’ to the Morrison’s/Buitelaar supply chain.

Following huge success in England and Wales, Buitelaar recently expanded the Morrison’s Dairy Beef Scheme into South-west Scotland, delivering the first batch of reared calves to Scottish beef farmers, David Delday and Son, in November, 2020.

The scheme, which has seen an increased demand for British Blues, has placed in the region of 20,000 dairy beef cattle throughout the UK and is known for producing consistent high-quality cattle in even batches, which allows greater efficiency within rearing, finishing and processing, and of course, an award winning end product.

Working hand in hand with Norbrook and Semex genetics to select superior sires, Buitelaar is encouraging the use of highly influential genetics on the dairy cow to add value to all supply chain stakeholders.

“We work closely with Semex in England and Wales on the sourcing of our calves, mainly Blues and Longhorns, and we will be doing the same with their Scottish team,” said Liz.

Representatives from Semex were visiting the collection centre last week, including Drew Sloan, senior vice- president of global sales and marketing.

Mr Sloan said: “It’s a great idea to keep calves in Scotland as part of a Scottish brand, and this is exactly what is happening with the Morrison/Buitelaar supply chain.”

Benefitting from easier calving, short gestation periods and a profitably sound animal with exceptionally good beef traits, dairy farmers on the English-based Buitelaar scheme have enjoyed £30-50 bonuses on standard breed prices.

On the flip side, the beef farmer gains value from a thriving calf that is better equipped to meet the needs of a commercial and forward-looking beef system. Genetically proven to grow better than standard breeds, these animals have seen values increase in excess of £80.

In addition to the British Blues, Buitelaar has introduced a Longhorn scheme over the last two years. CEO, Adam Buitelaar added: “The Longhorn brand has given us a real point of difference in our online meat sales. It also gives farmers another easy-calving choice to the Angus, which is becoming more and more the norm.” Buitelaar has had more than 2500 calvings to date and seen tremendous success with easy-calving and extremely spritely calves.

Buitelaar approached Wallet’s Mart as a potential site for the Scottish project as it was strategically placed in the heavily populated dairy area of Castle Douglas. Judith Cowie, livestock office manager and John Smith, auctioneer, both felt that it was an ‘excellent idea’.

Calf collection day at Wallet’s is very busy for the team, but the objective is to make it a quiet and calm environment for the calves. On arrival, calves are weighed and sorted, and then well-bedded in deep straw bedded spacious pens, with excellent ventilation and access to clean drinking water.

Calves are then moved on to their respective on-farm rearers. The Castle Douglas centre, like all other Buitelaar centres, runs under 24-hour surveillance, which offers complete transparency to Buitelaar’s industry retailers and partners.