Carcasses – could do better

23 February 2001

Carcasses – could do better

By Simon Wragg

A SURVEY linking slaughter-plant and cattle passport information suggests beef producers could substantially improve animal performance to achieve higher margins.

The five-month study, conducted by Northants-based independent slaughterer Midland Meat Packers, shows that just 35% of almost 1000 randomly picked animals achieved a desired carcass grade of R4L or better. That figure closely matches the MLCs national average.

As expected, more steers made the R4L grade than heifers – 38% versus 26%. Cattle between 12-18 months were also more likely to meet the requirement against those aged 18-24 months and over 24 months, at 51%, 44% and 30%, respectively, said a company spokesman.

Data on individual breeds also highlighted some marked differences in daily carcass gain. This was calculated using an assumed birth weight of 35kg and taking into account age and weight at slaughter (see table). But overriding the inter-breed performance was the wide gap in results within breeds, accounting for 0.2kg a head a day gain between the top 25% and bottom 25% performers across all groups. "This illustrates that individual sire and dam and, of course, rearing system are more important than breed in determining rates of carcass gain," added the spokesman.

Overall, the average DLWG was 0.73kg – equivalent to 0.4kg of carcass when killing out at 55%. Younger animals grew faster at 0.6kg carcass gain compared with 0.35kg for older stock.

"Clearly there is a need for producers to concentrate on maximising weight gain within their own system," said MLCs Duncan Pullar, following a review of the survey results.

"Some finishing systems may be geared to make the most of subsidy claims, but in all cases producers ought to manage cattle to get them finished and away as soon as the subsidy claim had been made."

There was also a clear correlation between growth rate and carcass quality, judged by conformation, in the results. Regardless of breed, sex or age at slaughter, over 75% of the top 25% of cattle judged on the highest growth rate – with an average carcass gain of 0.55kg – graded R or better. That fell to 57% in the second 25%, 31% for the third and just 10% for the bottom 25%.

Putting performance into commercial terms, the average carcass was worth £532. That rose to £593 for those grading R4L or better. Given their weight advantage, steers out-performed heifers, making £560 versus £471.

MMPs commercial director, Rob Mears, said more analysis would be carried out to provide MMPs main suppliers with information on improving finishing systems. &#42

Ken Barfoot, the Baker Group farm manager, Rob Mears and Duncan Pullar believe finishing systems could be improved to lift margins.

MMP carcass study results

Simm B Blue Char Blonde* Lim

Number of animals in survey 162 62 246 57 226

% of steers achieving R4L or better 49 78 47 57 44

Av carcass growth rates (kg a day) 0.43 0.42 0.40 0.40 0.39

Av growth rate of steers (kg a day) 0.46 0.44 0.42 0.40 0.41

Av growth rate of heifers (kg a day) 0.35 0.39 0.36 0.41 0.36

Steer carcass value (£) 561 603 598 575 568

Heifer carcass value (£) 460 482 467 516 473

*Includes a high % of purebreds compared with other breeds.

See more