Top lowland beef suckler outfits in England are netting margins of £120/cow more than the £77 a head average, the English Beef and Lamb Executive has said.

EBLEX’s enterprise costings found that lower fixed costs among the top third were responsible for a saving of £72 a head.

More than 40% of that came from savings on the labour bill, 30% from land and property costs and 20% from power, machinery and fixtures.

Top performing producers were also able to lower variable costs by £50 a head compared to the average.

The key was a shorter calving period, cutting the number of lighter calves, better growth rates from fewer concentrates and a higher calving rate (see table).

“The top third English lowland suckler herds set an impressive performance standard for the post-subsidy world,” said Duncan Sinclair, economics manager at the Meat and Livestock Commission.

“All the more so for the fact that they enjoyed no advantage in either herd size or calf sale prices.”

But he conceded that the top herds could not yet generate a profit without the single farm payment.

Robert Forster, chief executive of the National Beef Association, said the costings did not show the true cost of beef production because they ignored family income and reinvestment costs.