Major changes are taking place in the UK beef industry, as a result of the reduction in dairy cow numbers due to milk quotas. Similar reductions are taking place throughout Europe and have resulted in a strong export market for UK calves. Consequently in 1988 there were 800,000 fewer calves available for beef production than there were when quotas were introduced. This downward trend is forecast to continue and by 1990 the EEC will no longer be self-sufficient for veal and beef.
At times of calf shortages the concept of once-bred heifer beef (producing one calf out of a heifer otherwise destined for slaughter as clean beef, and then slaughtering her shortly after calving) has been considered as a way of generating extra calves and meeting the shortfall. Historically low fertility in young heifers, and high levels of dystokia have limited the commercial uptake of the technique. In addition returns have been low because heifers that have produced a calf are not eligible for Variable Beef Premium payments and, being unfamiliar with this type of slaughter animal the meat trade has regarded tham as cull cows and paid a reduced price.