Whether finishing dairy cull cows for the food chain is economical remains to be seen, but a change of mindset will be required by dairy producers used to sending cull cows on the over 30 months scheme.

Experience overseas and before the start of OTMS suggests well fleshed cows will always attract a premium relative to plainer cows, says MLC scientist Mary Browne.

“Deadweight value will be determined by carcass weight, conformation and level of fatness, as per the standard EUROP classification grid.

“There may also be penalties for cows not meeting beef production assurance criteria, so producers should check their current assurance status to secure the best marketing opportunities.”

EBLEX recommends producers take advantage of any pricing seasonality in the market wherever possible.

In particular, avoid traditional late-autumn and mid-winter peaks of cull cow sales.

Cull cows should be dried off with all medicine withdrawal periods strictly adhered to meet legislative requirements, it adds.

It advises producers to put weight and condition onto cull cows with a finishing regime only when realistic budgets show costs are likely to be justified by the extra returns realistically available.

Only consider those that both need finishing and will respond to it.

Aim for a finishing regime of no longer than three months, with weight gains of at least 0.7kg a day from grass, forage or concentrates to pre-set targets (see table).

For more detailed advice, costings and calculators visit Beef Action for Profit at www.eblex.org.uk

chrissie.lawrence@rbi.co.uk