22 June 2001

Stocking pressure solution?

By Marianne Curtis

A NEW initiative has given members of an East Anglian suckler marketing group the opportunity to transfer heifers to a finishing unit while retaining ownership, helping to boost returns.

Small heifers are often sold as stores, commanding low prices, because producers have insufficient space for over-wintering, according to East Anglian Sucklers director Lorraine Pope.

"Keeping them for longer can also endanger extensification eligibility because overall stocking density on the unit may become too high.

"We aim to develop a unit where members heifers can be finished over the winter/spring period. This will provide better returns than when they are sold as stores."

Heifers will enter the system at about 18 months old and be batched according to size. It will cost about £2.50/head/week for labour, buildings and straw plus £4.40 for feed. However, it may be possible for producers to supply this, when desired, says Miss Pope.

The group is in negotiations over a suitable site, with buildings and grazing to allow for grass finishing where appropriate, according to one of its advisers, Signet consultant Geoff Fish.

"It is hoped the initiative will attract 30-50% Rural Develop-ment Plan funding. It will use local abattoirs, while the longer term aim is to produce a branded product for local markets.

"Hopefully this will attract a premium, but it is difficult to say how much heifer margins will be imp-roved at this stage," says Mr Fish. &#42

OFF-FARMFINISHING

&#8226 Reduces stocking density.

&#8226 Adds value.

&#8226 Possibility of grant help.