Farmers sign up to minimum-price beef contract

More than 2,000 farmers have now joined an online platform enabling them to increase returns from their beef enterprises.

Called Breedr, the platform includes the UK’s first long-term, minimum-price contract, which guarantees a secure return for farmers 24 months in advance.

Farmers say the price certainty means they can plan their businesses and invest with confidence – helping to deliver cattle on time and to specification.

See also: Breedr launches cattle trading platform

Breedr founder Ian Wheal said the platform is helping to improve supply chain efficiencies, as well as the consistency and quality of the end product.

“By making better use of data, we can buy and sell with transparency, predict growth rates, and know that we’re supplying the processor with what they want.”

A beef producer himself, Mr Wheal predicted the contract would be worth more than £130m to British farmers over the next seven years.

Price uplift

It offers a 24-month minimum price for any cattle with lifetime data, with producers also receiving a proportion of any uplift in price above that.

Rearers can opt to be paid for each kilogramme of growth, eliminating the need for capital outlay on youngstock, while advanced payments are available to smooth cashflow.

In addition, the team has launched a new risk-free way to buy and sell livestock, based on lifetime animal data and weights.

Producers can trade using an app, with a price guarantee in case of any differential in the weight of weaned calves and stores between farms.

Sellers are also ensured payment within 72 hours of collection, and trades will be commission-free until later this year.

“With Brexit, the whole food industry is facing an uncertain time – but British agriculture is innovating to meet UK and global needs,” said Mr Wheal.

Profitable businesses

“Being able to plan ahead with certainty finally gives farmers the peace of mind they need to invest and build profitable businesses.”

Mr Wheal said farmers using the free app are finishing animals five months earlier than the industry average, with 24% more carcasses reaching the target specification.

They are saving 1.8t a head in feed and reducing their carbon footprint by 20%, he added.

AHDB Beef and Lamb chairman Adam Quinney said Breedr was a good example of technology being harnessed to benefit farmers and processors alike.

The benefit of these supply chains encourages improvements to genetics, farm productivity and, therefore, environmental impact in the long term, he added.

Case study: Breedr app reduces risk and increases business performance

Yorkshire beef farmer George Fell buys in about 100 calves each autumn at four- to-five months old, weighing about 150kg.

They spend their first winter inside and are then out at grass. The animals are turned out at about 300-350kg.

The aim is to maximise the potential of grass during the summer before the animals are sent on to a contract finisher at about 450-500kg.

“Breedr is helping us all the time the calf is with us,” said Mr Fell. “The calf rearer we purchase from uses Breedr – so we get the data from those animals when they come on to our farm and then we manage the animals using the Breedr app too.”

Mr Fell said the app helps ensure he purchases only the best stock, capable of utilising the farm’s managed grazing – and stock which goes on to meet the requirements of the end market. This reduces the risk to the farm business.

“I can’t influence the price, but I can ensure I buy a quality product, and sell a quality product at a known price. By working with other farmers, we can increase our business by improving performance,” Mr Fell explained.

“At the end of it all, we can see how well the animals have performed – seeing whether there are any differences between sires, dairy farmers and whether they have been colostrum fed – and identifying the animals best suited to our system.”