At 198 a cow, England’s top lowland suckler herds are netting margins 120 a cow greater than the average, according to enterprise costings just published by the English Beef and Lamb Executive.

Lower fixed costs among the top third were responsible for a saving of 72 a head, EBLEX said.

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 able to lower variable costs by 50 a head compared to the average.

The key was a three-week shorter calving period, cutting the number of lighter, late-born calves.

These herds also managed to rear an extra calf per 100 cows.

Growth rates were also faster for top herds, despite the use of 20kg less feed concentrate.

The resulting weight advantage of 25kg per calf raised margin by 28 a head.

“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.

“But it is a very useful indicator of what is needed for people to haul in their costs.

Farmers in the bottom two-thirds should take note,” he added.

sam.fortescue@rbi.co.uk
RMIF conference, p28