14 January 2000

Highest bidder secures

IN a normal week, 50 finished cattle are marketed from Manor Farm Estate, Bridgham, to a variety of outlets, depending on which offers the highest price.

"We sell where we can get the best price," says marketing manager, Phillip Dale. This usually means to larger operators, but they also sell to smaller local outlets, he adds.

On such a big unit – finishing 2000-3000 cattle a year – it can be difficult to source ideal cattle all the time, but the operation has its preferences, says Mr Dale. "We look for older cattle of about 18 to 25 months old with a good frame which we can put meat on because we want to finish steers and heifers as big as possible."

Finished steers average 650kg liveweight and heifers 550kg, which suits supermarket demand for big carcasses, says Mr Dale.

As it is an all-year-round finishing operation, a constant supply of store cattle is required. Most are sourced from cattle dealers who know what type of beast Mr Rackham wants, or from local suckler herds who regularly supply him with finishing cattle. He is keen to buy more cattle from local farms because it is better for cattle welfare.

Until recently bought-in stores have been mostly Continental cross steers in the 350-450kg range, but more heifers are now being bought. "For big finishers like ourselves who can only claim subsidy on 90 beasts we are better off buying heifers and finishing them. It is difficult to compete against someone who can claim £200 of subsidy for his beasts and is, therefore, willing to pay extra to purchase them."

One of the penalties of being such a large unit is that, on average, 50 new cattle are brought on to the farm each week. They are wormed, given IBR and RSV vaccinations and sorted into groups depending on their size. But bringing new cattle each week also increases the risks of pneumonia.

"A lot of bugs are being introduced each week, which means our biggest problem is pneumonia, which is costly to treat," he adds. &#42

About 2000-3000 finished cattle are sold from Manor Farm Estate.