Farmer Focus: Better prices and a grid that suits the cattle

We don’t need a drone to tell us it’s going to be a very mediocre harvest here.

It would have been far worse, but we did get a decent splash of rain in early June, which has boosted the oilseed rape and our maize looks a picture.

Where this forecasted 10.7m tonne wheat crop is coming from, I have no idea.

To put it in perspective, we normally grow in the region of 182ha (450 acres) of wheat, but this year I’m left with 4ha (10 acres), which in reality is 2ha (5 acres) if you take out all the wet holes.

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It will leave me with just enough for some seed for the 2021 crop. I’m not panicking about seed at the moment, though, as I have a massive carry-over, brought forward from autumn 2019.

However, I am waiting for the germination tests to come back, so fingers crossed.

The cattle trade has been exciting, with prices rising on a weekly basis. I feel we have plateaued now, in the region of £3.60/kg for clean commercial cattle.

This is good, as slaughter throughputs have increased. There’s been a good amount of promotion by various retailers for steak and for BBQ products.

Kantar Worldpanel reported beef sales are up 26.9% on last year. I was also delighted to hear the “enjoy steak night” slogan and the Red Tractor promotion on Heart FM (most definitely a “yoof” station) – we are targeting the right audience.   

We are now fully integrated into Breedr (marketing programme) and have taken full advantage of the trading part of the app. Weekly prices are offered for clean commercial cattle, bulls and various natives.

We check the prices and see whether they are in line with the other processors. We then commit our customers’ cattle to an RFL (request for livestock) at that price.

The marketing part of the app takes care of haulage and payments. It has the added advantage for us of a “flattened grid” (wider specification) that suits a lot of our customers with dairy cross cattle.

The specification is O- to U+ at 300-360kg for black and whites, 280-340kg for continentals and 290-350kg for natives. The penalties are lower for O grades as well.

It’s very straightforward and suits our custom feeding system.

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