22 March 1996

Matching system to market can keep your returns high

Beef production both within and beyond the farm gate was the focus of last weeks Beef 96 event at the NAC. The need to tailor production to suit target markets and encompass traceability and better eating quality was to the fore. Jessica Buss and Jonathan Riley report

BEEF producers must examine potential markets and their likely margins and match these to a system that meets their resources.

So said Chris Brown, MLC beef strategy manager, speaking at Beef 96. "For example, with 18-month beef, where autumn-born calves are grazed from six to 12 months and finished in the second winter, margins can be improved by restricting growth rates of steers and heifers in the first winter. Keep them down to 0.8kg a day and 0.7kg a day so compensatory growth is maximised when they are at grass," said Dr Brown.

He reckoned Continental crosses, traditional British crosses and Holstein crosses were suitable for this system. And that steers should be slaughtered in fat class 4L at about 500kg for Holstein Friesian, 450kg to 500kg for British crosses and 520 to 550kg for Continentals. Heifers should be slaughtered between 375kg and 425kg at 4L for British crosses and 440kg to 500kg fat class 3 for Continental crosses.

"Within these ranges retail and catering sectors for our home market and across Europe would be suitable," he said. "A growing outlet for British beef is the southern European market, which favours lightweight heifers slaughtered at eight to 10 months for a carcass weight between 200 and 250kg. Continental crosses are in demand with white fat and so careful choice of feed must be made so as not to discolour fat."

Chris Brown: "A growing outlet for British beef is in southern Europe."