30 November 2001

Moving closer to end market is top priority

MOVING closer to the end market for beef and knowing exactly what it requires as well as removing inefficiencies throughout the food-chain will be essential to ensure a profitable future for British beef, believes Robert Manning.

"All my cattle are destined for the Waitrose scheme and marketed through Meadow Valley Livestock. The abattoir where they are killed likes to know six months ahead of slaughter how many I will be sending on a particular day and their specification. This takes some doing, but we are working towards it.

"Currently abattoirs spend considerable time sorting which cattle are suitable for which market after killing, but if producers were able to produce consistent batches of cattle, this time would be reduced. There may currently be no premium for doing this, but savings could be possible through the opportunity it presents to analyse on-farm management of cattle more carefully."

Mr Mannings cattle are weighed at least once every two mon-ths to ensure they are on target. This may seem a lot of weighing, but he compares it with a broiler enterprise on the farm. "Broilers are weighed twice a week and must achieve a target weight at slaughter."

Aberdeen Angus X and Hereford X Holstein Friesian steers on the farm are slaughtered at 22 months old. "Most grade O+, but we are seeing an increasing number of Rs since changing rationing. About 90% are the optimum fat class of 4L, preferred for the Waitrose scheme."

Waitrose offers a relatively stable price for cattle, which allows Mr Manning to focus on reducing costs.

"Some producers focus too much on price rather than margins. Working with abattoirs and processors to achieve a stable price, then removing inefficiencies throughout the food-chain would offer a better chance for all players to work together to supply large companies, such as McDonalds." &#42