Go for quality not short-term fixes, says meat trade
Despite pressure on prices,
beef consultants from
around the regions told FW
livestock reporters that
holding onto cattle was not
an option. Stick to target
selling weights and, in the
longer term, focus on quality
and production efficiency
SHORT-TERM advice for beleaguered beef finishers was in short supply at the Welsh Winter Fair.
But the meat trade had a clear message for farmers tempted to use plentiful silage and cheap cereals to delay marketing until returns improve. It was to beware the 30-month rule, and the penalties imposed on over-fat and heavy animals. Cattle should, butchers insisted, be marketed at their optimum level of finish.
They, and industry consultants, all agreed that recovery could be some way off, and that medium and long-term strategy must concentrate on quality, and production efficiency. Auctioneer Terry Court, who sold the supreme cattle champion for a staggering £8.20/kg liveweight, but is depressed by current market prices, said there had been a premium on best quality store and finished cattle throughout the crisis.
Signets David Evans, was one of many industry advisers urging suckler herd operators to exploit high genetic merit cattle, make more efficient use of grazed and conserved home-grown fodders, and to improve marketing.
"Average market returns are unlikely to rise much for some time," he admitted.
"Survival depends on trimming fixed and variable costs, producing premium earning superior stock, and marketing them well. The variation between results from different farms provides much scope for improvement on some."
Using a sire that improved the growth rate of calves by 0.1kg a day could increase the income from 60 sucklers by £1700 a year. Bulls with good muscling scores would sire better conformation suckled calves, and a premium of 5p/kg would lift returns from 60 cows by over £850 a year.
There was general agreement among advisers at the fair that the crisis was a watershed for the industry, which should encourage all involved to take a long, hard look at their systems to identify their strengths and weaknesses.
Aim to finish cattle faster, not slower – and dont delay selling cattle as a better price may not cover additional costs incurred.
• Beware holding onto cattle; meet targets.
• Co-operate for improved marketing clout.
• Explore scope for reducing feed costs.
• Maximise use of grazed grass not silage.
• Exploit high genetic merit cattle.
• Review performance of beef enterprise.