Beef farmers are continuing to support production costs with SFP payments, says MLC economics manager Duncan Sinclair.

And now is not the time to sit back and reflect on the reasons, he urges, but to concentrate on making businesses more profitable through using improved practices.

Responding to the first set of industry results published since decoupling, Mr Sinclair highlighted the variance in figures between the economic performance of top and bottom-third producers.

“Different producers are achieving different things,” said Mr Sinclair. “It is critical for the gap to be closed between the bottom and top thirds of producers in terms of performance. Part of the way we intend to solve this is by encouraging farmers to get up to speed using the EBLEX Better Returns Program.

‘Untapped market’

“There is a huge untapped market in terms of genetic potential, particularly with developments being made in terms of genetic improvement and management techniques. Liveweight gains, key to profitability, are remaining constant and are not being passed down to make the most of these improvements,” he added.

And the lifting of the over-30-month scheme had given farmers the chance to make more from cull cows, something many producers were not maximising returns on, said Mr Sinclair. “Increasing cull cow values may mean producing one less calf or losing one lactation, but cull price would subsequently be significantly higher.”

Producers should aim to meet target slaughter ages, between 18 and 21 months for heifers to maximise efficiency and, therefore, improve financial performance, he advised.

After the trebling in value of dairy-bred calves, from £8 to £30 a head, an extra 4000 calves had been registered for passports, a result of 95% of exports being calves under three months, he said. “With exports now a reality, the industry has real potential in terms of being able to meet the requirements of foreign markets.”