A FINISHED BEEF price of 2.50/kg could make taking Holstein bulls up from 500kg to 550kg liveweight economic, as they will realise a higher proportion of premium meat cuts.

That was the conclusion of trials at The Agricultural Research Institute of Northern Ireland (ARINI), Hillsborough, involving 180 Holstein Friesian bulls, said ARINI”s Richard Kirkland.

“The bull study comprised six different finished weights from 300 to 550kg, with a group of steers reared to 450kg.”

Rearing bulls to 300kg aimed to find out whether there would be a return in finishing two lots of bull beef in a year, to spread overheads and improve market return. But meat yields were considered too low to ensure sufficient profit.

“Increasing finished weight from 300 to 550kg liveweight increased slaughter age from just over eight months to 14.5 months and resulted in major increases in concentrate requirements and poorer feed conversion ratios,” said Dr Kirkland.

While it increased weights of high value prime cuts it also decreased yields as a proportion of the carcass, he said. “Carcass values at heavier weights reflect the shift from commodity beef to supermarket grade specifications for several joints.

“Currently, a rise in finished weight to 550kg would not release significant return, as feed conversion was poorer for older bulls. But with an increase in beef price of 40-50p/kg, the economics would stack up.

“Furthermore, supermarket trends suggest bull beef was of a poorer quality than steers, but sensory testing showed bulls were well within limits for quality and tenderness.

“Steers needed significantly more concentrate. Feed conversion and rates of liveweight and carcass gain were also poorer than bulls”,” he added.