Calf finishing may be profitable option

By FW Staff

LOW prices for suckled calves mean there may be some profit in finishing, given good feeding and management, says Suffolk-based Signet consultant Geoff Fish.

But he is wary of predicting what finished prices will do. “Making a profit does depend on finishing values. Assuming they stay similar to their present level there could be a margin for those producers who are technically efficient at finishing stock.”

Peter Cook, head of SACs Rural Business Unit at Inverurie, Aberdeenshire, advises working out figures carefully before investing money in beef. “Budget how much feed is required and what it will cost to add a kilo of weight to cattle. Also include other costs such as transport, marketing, interest on the money and labour to give you a break-even price.

“Where the break-even figure is about 70p/kg it might be worth it. But it is important to work out costs first.”

The National Beef Associations Robert Forster says that despite lower prices, a lot of cattle on the market now will be younger and lighter than those when prices were higher.

But there are some positive pointers for cattle being finished in May, June and later next year. There will be less pig and sheepmeat to compete with and there might be some export markets.

According to Mr Fish there may be more of a margin to be had buying heifers. But be careful not to feed them too much too quickly, he says. “However, Continental cross heifers can be fed similar levels of concentrate to steers, typically 0.5kg a day less.

“A 20-25% protein concentrate is required to balance cheap forages such as roots or potatoes. Malt nuts, at 20-23% protein, are good value, but shop around for other alternatives.

“Finishers feeding fodder beet and sugar beet should build levels up slowly to 25kg a day to prevent any digestive disorders.”

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