Farmer Focus: Beef prices are hard, but butchers may benefit

Sleeping is cheating. There’s been little chance to nap here of late.

What a difference eight weeks makes. We have gone from “gripping” (draining) water off with a 14 tonne hoe, to maximum moisture retention.

Spring barley drilling started off like ‘riding on the skin of a rice pudding’, and has gone to rock hard dry conditions. The better land has emerged and rocketed away, the “strong” has emerged, but is struggling and is in need of a drink.

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Maize drilling is well under way and to conserve moisture we are running the Watkins tri-till through the mucked stubble, followed by the power harrow, with the maize drill following in convoy.

All of us operate in the same block of land and then move onto the next. The key is not to get too far ahead, otherwise the moisture disappears in front of your eyes.

Half the acreage is down to grain maize and the other half down to our old favourite LG Ambition which I regard as a dual-purpose grain or forage crop.

Now I have to get my head around the beef monitor program. If we do a diet tweak, we can now see the implications in real time.

I liken it to looking in the bulk milk tank and seeing a response to the diet nearly immediately.

Now we know the baseline growth rate we can monitor the effects of the diet change. Obviously, you have to ignore the first couple of days because the cattle have to acclimatise to the different taste and texture of the feed, but we then need to be back on the rising curve of growth matching the previous data.

The fat cattle job at the moment is hard work. We have had a 5-10p/kg reduction in the deadweight price due to the knock-on effects of Covid-19.

Saying that, the liveweight price has not dropped proportionally to the deadweight price, and I would suggest the local butchers are doing a right trade.

I hope the consumer doesn’t revert back to supermarket shopping and shows the local shops some loyalty when the current crisis is over.


Doug Dear is a Farmer Focus writer from Yorkshire. Read his biography.