UK beef farmers must stop chasing showring fads and E- and U-grade cattle and take a step back from the businesses to assess the sort of cattle they need to breed to suit their farm and their aspirations, according to Northern Irish beef farmer and Nuffield scholar William Haire.


Speaking at a seminar at the BeefExpo, Hexham Auction Mart, Mr Haire said too many farmers were pre-occupied with producing cattle they liked looking at rather than cattle that processors wanted. “In many cases they spend more time worrying about how their cattle compare to their neighbours than how well they are performing financially.

“Every beef farmer should sit back and decide what they want out of their farming system then set about breeding cattle to allow them the lifestyle they want. Cows should be able to be left to calve unaided and should be capable of rearing a calf off grass alone. She should be able to calve every year without fail and should last at least 10 years, then you’ll start to see your herd move into profit.”

These maternal lines are paramount to the future of the industry and more importantly your herd, he added. “Temperament and structural soundness are also critical and help ensure cows remain productive. It is also vital to find out what sort of cattle the market really wants and then produce to that specification.

“Very few processors want extreme muscled animals, most are happier with R-grade carcasses which fit the weight and fat classification as these are the cattle which have potential to leave a profit for everyone in the supply chain, from the farmer to the retailer.”

And when it came to pedigree breeders, Mr Haire said the mistrust of EBVs among many had to end. “What must be remembered is that EBVs are not an assessment of a particular animal, but a prediction of how that animal’s progeny will perform. Any breeder not using EBVs should seriously consider selling up and getting out of the industry now.”