Farmer Focus: Regardless of system, these beef prices are unsustainable

It has been a month of mending, maintenance and education. We had a very successful school trip a few weeks ago. Trying to herd 40 children around the farm was no mean feat.

This was followed by a two-day study tour, organised in conjunction with the College of Agriculture Food and Rural Enterprise (Cafre) from Antrim, Northern Ireland.

Many topics were discussed with the Northern Irish beef farmers. Farm efficiencies, feed, housing and beef-rearing systems all came up, but one thing that became abundantly clear in the “wash-up session” at the end of day two was that it doesn’t matter how efficient we are throughout the beef supply chain, with the price of beef at this level, it is completely unsustainable.

See also: Analysis: Are beef prices likely to rise soon?

The youth of today seem to think it is very fashionable to be vegetarian or even a vegan. Each to their own, I say, although I don’t think it does them any good.

We need to sell ourselves better. Agriculture gets the blame for all sorts.

Can we not use the whole £4.05 beef carcass levy – which, in real terms, is more profit a head than the producer is making this year – and use the £8.4m AHDB beef budget on marketing to the youth sector and make beef appealing again?

In among all the educational tours, we have pulled down an old shed and replaced it with a new one, taking the opportunity to have a real tidy-up.

We added a new feed passage and scrape passage, as well as mobile pen dividers, using concrete blocks so the cattle fit the pen rather than the pen fitting the cattle.

We had a week of fabricating new fittings, all made to our “super duty “specification.

Usually, we paint all the gates, feed barriers and other ancillaries, which promptly flakes off, but this time they have been taken away to be galvanised, so they really should last a lifetime.

All the crops look really well and have great potential. Our tractor, “Flo”, is greased up and ready to go.

The one disappointment this year is the maize. Still, you can’t get it right all the time – it’s about trying to get fewer things wrong.

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

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