Farmer Focus: Fixed contracts offer relief from beef price fall

During the past few weeks it’s been gorgeous outside, but as dry as I can remember in April for quite a while.

We got our maize drilled in mid-April and germination was good as it’s up already and the rows look consistent.

Our triticale whole crop that went in a couple of weeks earlier also looks good, but both crops seriously need a drink, as does the grass.

We currently have plenty of grass and the cattle look good on it, but another couple of weeks of this weather and it will get a tad challenging on a dry farm like this.

See also: Beef market outlook

One plus side of the weather is that calving is a doddle when it’s dry and warm. Calving is going well and we are running at close to 50/50 heifers and bulls and have had some beautiful red Angus heifer calves born that will really enhance our breeding programme.

We are using as much AI as possible. If we get our sire selection correct the genetic gains we can make are enormous.

We have seen some serious slides in beef price over the last month, with our local abattoir only paying £3.22 p/kg for an R4L last week. We are protected a bit from this at Melview as we are on fixed-price contracts with Mitchells and Butlers, and also sell some heifers into the Tesco Angus Scheme, which pays a helpful premium.

See also: Market prices

However, this drop in price, which I understand is being driven by a drop in demand and the strength of the pound making exports a challenge, is a real problem for our industry and its future. I am pleased with the noises coming out of Eblex about marketing, particularly from new chief executive Jane King. We can’t do much about the pound/euro relationship, but we can be smart and do our bit to help lift demand in our own market.

By the time you read this the result of the general election will be known. It will be interesting to see what happens – one thing for sure is it will have a big impact on farming if we don’t get another five years of Conservative rule. Let’s hope the new government disproves what an old boy told me in the pub last week: “The last person to enter the Houses of Parliament with good intentions was Guy Fawkes.”


Paul Westaway farms in partnership with his wife Kirsty on a 69ha Gloucester County Council farm, running more than 220 Angus and Holstein Cattle. The pair also run an AI business and have recently launched an online steak and wine shop

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