7 April 2000

Larger cattle mean greater subsidies

LARGER carcass cattle are in demand again because costly slaughter regulations mean greater meat yield is more cost-effective for abattoirs, says Signets Ian Ross.

Producing big cattle is exactly what Robert Knight of Whistlow Farm is trying to do. His intention is to meet this demand, but still market cattle at certain deadlines to ensure he can claim the top level of super-extensification subsidy.

Mr Knights system is similar to traditional 18-month and two-year finishing systems. "The idea is to keep them cheaply in their first winter, which is a store period," he says.

To market cattle as planned, Mr Knight splits heifers and steers into two groups. Those carrying a bit too much finish will be fed 3.5kg/head/day of concentrate and others will be offered 5kg/head/day.

Both groups are offered ad-lib forage, based on a two-thirds grass silage and one-third maize silage mix. Steers are taken to 640kg liveweight and heifers to 500kg, and all are sold through local marketing groups. The last batch of 30 steers sold killed out at an average weight of 344kg, making £586 apiece.

"The idea is to breed big, heavy carcasses but still be able to sell them in time. When this doesnt happen you have too many LSUs and that means losing out on subsidy," says Mr Ross.