NEWCASTLE University Farms and award-winning agricultural company Buitelaar have launched a Longhorn Heritage Beef project at Cockle Park Research Farm, Morpeth.

It involves the university’s Nafferton Farm dairy herd of 300 Holstein Friesians being inseminated to traditional Longhorn bulls in order to produce a terminal beef calf of increased market-value.

In recent years, Holstein Friesian male calves have had little value, prompting Buitelaar to launch its own innovative dairy beef scheme in response to unwanted black-and-white bull calves.

Hugh Pocock, Buitelaar development manager, said its beef scheme has now been extended to produce a traditional heritage beef calf, providing ease of calving; increased animal health and welfare and increased growth-rates.

He said: "The Heritage Beef project provides tremendous opportunities to create a new beef market and provide farmers with greater certainty as an end product

"After leaving Nafferton, the Longhorn cross Holstein Friesian calves will be reared on Buitelaar supplier farms located in Cleveland and North Yorkshire. There is increasing demand for traditional heritage beef and we are developing an exciting market to fulfil consumer demand. Suppliers and consumers are requesting high quality beef as well as food provenance and traceability.

"Buitelaar provide complete traceability and all calves leave our customer dairy units to be reared through our supplier system. Our pricing system is transparent with dairy farmers currently receiving a £32 bonus above the AHDB market price for Holstein Friesian calves.

"There is increasing demand for British heritage beef from overseas as well as Asian markets and as the project develops, Buitelaar aim to increase supply. The Longhorn cross Holstein Friesian animals are expected to be finished on a grass system at 16-18 months and weigh between 500kgs and 550kgs."

The Newcastle University project involves inseminating Nafferton dairy cows with Longhorn semen. It began on November 9 and will result in calves being born in late August and September 2020.

Gareth Hancock, Newcastle University farms manager, said the Longhorn is considered the oldest English beef breed and an ideal choice for the project.

He said: "Newcastle University Farms is extremely excited about this ground-breaking initiative. We are the only University Farm in the UK to start this project. We are linking decisions directly to the food-chain and developing a breeding system based on what the market wants and one that suits our business. As part of the project, Genus will maintain meticulous records on calving-ease; viability and breeding.

"We expect to produce calves that are healthy and well-grown and will leave Nafferton Farm between two and six weeks old, reducing the pressures on labour requirements and housing. Another important benefit is students will receive excellent training in calf-rearing from Buitelaar."

The University has also purchased three Longhorn bulls from renowned breeder Charlie Sutcliffe from Telford Longhorns, Lincolnshire. After the second insemination period, any repeat breeding animals will be served by natural service. Inseminations at Nafferton Farm will be split between autumn and spring-calving patterns.