8 March 2002

Improve performance to make profit sense

THE latest results from a long-term project attempting to improve the performance of suckler herds reveals that a Belgian Blue cross Holstein cow may be more profitable than a Simmental cross animal.

Senior researcher Merfyn Davies presented delegates with the results of a study in which Belgian Blue x Holstein and Simmental x Holstein suckler cows were put to Aberdeen Angus or Charolais sires. Calves were born at ADAS Redesdale, Northumberland, and were finished at ADAS Rosemaund.

In year two of the comparison, steers out of Belgian Blue cross dams produced 12kg heavier carcasses at 18 months, than those from Simmental cross dams, and their killing out percentage was 1.2% better. Daily growth rates of both crosses were similar at 0.93kg, but finishing gross margins were £23/head better for steers from Belgian Blues.

Heifers out of Belgian Blue cross dams also performed better than those from Simmental cross dams, but their gross margins were only £5 better.

Angus-sired steer calves did not kill out as well as Charolais crosses and their average carcass weight was 20kg lower, but a 20p/kg deadweight premium ensured that their gross margin was £20/head higher.

Mr Davies said that calves from Belgian Blue cross cows and Charolais sires had the highest proportion of saleable meat. Whatever the sire, calves out of Simmental cross cows had the higher proportion of bone. Angus sired calves had more fat trim, but less bone.

A comparison of finishing Aberdeen Angus-sired steers at 18 and 24 months showed that keeping them longer improved gross margin/head by £120, with the second Beef Special Premium payment, but this takes no account of fixed costs. Currently, finishing bulls and heifers at 12 and 24 months is being assessed. &#42