12 June 1998

Bulls finished on own cereals boost margins

Finishing bulls using cheap

home-grown cereals should

improve margins for one

Warks producer faced with

the alternative of accepting

low store cattle prices.

Simon Wragg reports

WITH the decline in market prices for store and finished cattle over the last two years, accepting about £100 less for a finished beast worth £700 makes more sense than accepting £100 less for it as a store animal worth £400, particularly when theres cheap cereals, labour and housing available on-farm.

Thats the logic farm manager Jim Yarrow is following, having agreed with the executors advisers of Greenlands Estate, Ashorne, Warwick, to finish some cattle normally sold as stores from the 320ha (800-acre) unit.

Store calves from the 165-cow herd were sold in markets near the Welsh border where buyers appreciate the quality type of store animal bred at Greenlands Estate, comments Mr Yarrow.

However, the closure of Kidderminster market in January this year was a set-back and cattle have subsequently been sold at Rugby. "It was a case of new customers not knowing our cattle – we didnt get the premiums wed seen at Kidderminster," he says.

The culmination of lower prices from both beef and arable enterprises – the farm grows 141ha (350 acres) of cereals – has brought about a return to finishing cattle. "The suckler producer has taken more of a knock than finishers and weve got barley fetching £70/t . So it starts to make sense to finish cattle."

Male stores that were formerly achieving £300/head at Rugby will now be finished as entire bulls collecting an extra beef special premium of about £20/head.

However, heifers will continue to be sold as stores to repeat buyers in the hope of attracting a premium.

Once weaned on to a barley-based diet (costed at £85/t including a mill and mix charge), bulls will be housed and finished to about 520kg liveweight using about 1.3t barley/head.

Cereal costs have been contained by using about 1000t poultry manure and sludge annually in place of bought-in fertiliser.

Finishing bulls using cheap

home-grown cereals should

improve margins for one

Warks producer faced with

the alternative of accepting

low store cattle prices.

Simon Wragg reports

WITH the decline in market prices for store and finished cattle over the last two years, accepting about £100 less for a finished beast worth £700 makes more sense than accepting £100 less for it as a store animal worth £400, particularly when theres cheap cereals, labour and housing available on-farm.

Thats the logic farm manager Jim Yarrow is following, having agreed with the executors advisers of Greenlands Estate, Ashorne, Warwick, to finish some cattle normally sold as stores from the 320ha (800-acre) unit.

Store calves from the 165-cow herd were sold in markets near the Welsh border where buyers appreciate the quality type of store animal bred at Greenlands Estate, comments Mr Yarrow.

However, the closure of Kidderminster market in January this year was a set-back and cattle have subsequently been sold at Rugby. "It was a case of new customers not knowing our cattle – we didnt get the premiums wed seen at Kidderminster," he says.

The culmination of lower prices from both beef and arable enterprises – the farm grows 141ha (350 acres) of cereals – has brought about a return to finishing cattle. "The suckler producer has taken more of a knock than finishers and weve got barley fetching £70/t . So it starts to make sense to finish cattle."

Male stores that were formerly achieving £300/head at Rugby will now be finished as entire bulls collecting an extra beef special premium of about £20/head.

However, heifers will continue to be sold as stores to repeat buyers in the hope of attracting a premium.

Once weaned on to a barley-based diet (costed at £85/t including a mill and mix charge), bulls will be housed and finished to about 520kg liveweight using about 1.3t barley/head.

Cereal costs have been contained by using about 1000t poultry manure and sludge annually in place of bought-in fertiliser. "Weve bought no compound for 10 years," says Mr Yarrow.

Most of the manure is acquired locally the only expense being carting and spreading. An agronomist to analyse N-status and recommend application rates according to soil nutrient indices.

Yards used for overwintering the suckler herd will house bulls on straw taken from the arable enterprise. Using existing labour, finishing costs should be under current market prices of 85-90p/kg liveweight, he suggests.

The aim is to attract regular buyers wholl agree a set price for finished cattle. "Any successful manufacturer finds a market, builds for that market and tells the customer how much its going to cost," he says.

To attract buyers hes continuing to narrow variation in finished cattle with his self-styled rotational cross-breeding programme, similar in principle to that introduced at ADAS High Mowthorpe (Livestock, Jan 9).

The herd is based on South Devon cattle selected for good feed conversion and crossed on to Hereford x Friesians to produce a F1 generation. These are then crossed with Angus for ease of calving and/or Charolais, Limousin or Belgian Blue to improve beef characteristics.

While calves are a mix of conformation and colour, heifers drawn as replacements are surprisingly uniform in size and stature, says Mr Yarrow. Sires are then selected to breed out variation in the F2 generation.

If beef prospects are to improve its inevitable that producers must move towards the standardisation of carcass quality required by large buyers and major retailers, he adds. "Before producers can afford to do it, margins from suckler and beef enterprises must improve."

IMPROVED PROFITABILITY

&#8226 Finishing store on cheap cereals

&#8226 Extra beef special premium

&#8226 Improving quality by breeding selectively

Stores will be kept and finished on home-grown cereals to boost margins, says Jim Yarrow.