Choose a system to suit your set-up

There are as many beef systems as there are beef producers, ranging from suckler breeder-finisher, via the young store or calf buyer, through to the short-keep forward store finisher.

But whichever system you have in place, the crucial factor, says MLC technical manager Duncan Pullar, is that it must suit you, your skills and farm resources.

Like all farming enterprises, beef must be profitable to be kept in the business, says Dr Pullar.

“This is certainly a struggle at the moment, with variable income, depressed prices and a difficult to predict future.”

Some producers have the resources and the capabilities to produce high-quality carcasses, meeting the top end of a butcher or processor’s specification.

Their target for that quality carcass is often U- or better and often a good weight for age, says Dr Pullar.

“They generally achieve this by controlling all the factors they can.

This may start with the breeding of cows and bulls, managing grazing and winter feed production, through to a detailed plan of the finishing programme, with carefully crafted finishing rations.”

At the other end of the scale, there are producers who enjoy the cut and thrust of the market-place.

“These producers are looking for heavy stores suitable for short-term finishing,” says Dr Pullar.

“Their skills lie in seeking out animals which can finish quickly and can be bought for the right price.

“They may specialise in steers or heifers from more humble genetic backgrounds, such as Holsteins and their crosses.”

But they are still capable of turning a profit, he adds.

Rations may well be based on home-grown feeds or by-products that can be bought to produce a finishing ration.

“These producers need a quick turnover of stock, finishing according to market demand at the time of selling,” says Dr Pullar.

“They judge their timings in weeks, not years.”