4 June 1999

Better breeding key to avoiding lightweights

SMALL or lightweight finished heifers which are making less money than their larger, better quality counterparts can be avoided in the long term.

Historically light heifers have made less, says MLC beef economist Duncan Sinclair. "At a lower weight, you have lower meat yield." Overheads, increase pro rata as there is less meat yield for the processor to spread the same overhead costs over, he adds.

Heifers finishing below 500kg can be a problem, says Signets Ian Ross. Turning them out to grass, where this has not been anticipated may cause a grass shortage later in the year.

"In the short-term there is little you can do. If you have a -04H heifer now, you will not turn that into a R4H." It may be possible to get heavier cattle but not better ones, he adds.

But late maturing continental type heifers could be turned out and finished off grass profitably. However, Mr Ross says this strategy would not be worth following for traditional early maturing heifers.

But in the long-term finishers should look at their breeding policy, he says. "Look at low fat EBVs, high growth rates and later maturing cattle." But he warns that there can be as much difference in quality between bulls as breeds. &#42