Even with the positive mood at Beef and Growing Cattle South West at Hatherleigh market last week, beef nutritionist David Hendy told producers they shouldn’t sit back and accept British beef is the best in the world – they must be working for it.

Speaking at a Mole Valley Farmers-sponsored seminar, he told visitors that although they didn’t have control over the price they were paid for finished cattle, they did have control over efficiency, particularly rumen efficiency.

“When diets are correct, cattle should be cudding for about eight hours a day and dung should be consistent, so that means a structured diet with good levels of fibre,” he said.

For suckler cows, producers should consider condition scoring as their bible, he added. “It’s a harsh reality, but with removal of suckler cow subsidies, farmers should be looking at ways of taking £100-£150 out of management costs and that means looking at production efficiencies, such as fertility indexing, 200-day calf weights and the dry period.”

Too few farmers were taking advantage of creep feeding, he said. “Boosting that vital weaning weight is crucial and when simple ration creep feeds come in at £85/t, it’s cost-effective as well.

“And for those retaining calves for finishing, creep feeding will help reduce slaughter periods because finished weights will be achieved sooner.”

Cornwall producer Kevin Daniel of Trebursye Farm is a strong believer in creep feeding for his pure and Simmental cross calves. “They are offered 3kg of creep a day, consisting of barley, oats, sugar beet, molasses and vitamins and minerals from three months old.

“This way, finishing bulls get the right start, helping them finish at weights of 660kg at 12 months old killing out at U4L grades.”