It might pay to speed up older cow replacement

A POTENTIAL FUTURE cull price difference between sucklers born before and after August 1996 may make it worth increasing replacement rates in herds with a high proportion of older cows.

Cows born before August 1996 are now confirmed as permanently excluded from the food chain, says MLC beef economics manager Duncan Sinclair.

A successor scheme to deal with these cows after the over 30-month scheme is expected to be proposed by DEFRA at the end of January. “However, any such scheme is likely to provide compensation for a strictly limited period once OTMS is replaced by BSE testing,” says Mr Sinclair.

Price difference

“And pre-August 1996-born cows will never be worth as much as those going in the food chain. The current difference between OTMS price and cull cows on the Continent is 35-40p/kg.”

Price differences between older and younger culls will promote early disposal of older cattle. Herds with a habit of replacing 15-18% of cows a year might risk breeding herd shortages, he warns.

To ensure enough replacements are kept in the coming year, EBLEX advises checking how many of these older cows are in the herd. “At present, producers should be planning to cull these cows within three years, regardless of productivity,” adds Mr Sinclair.

Calculations for EBLEX show a herd with 30% pre-August 1996-born cows would need to increase replacement rates to 25% for three years to cull them within three years.