FEARS that a rush of plain Holstein-bred bulls could flood the beef market this summer and depress prices may prove unfounded.
Beef processor ABP has slaughtered the first of its contracted Holstein bulls formerly destined for the calf processing scheme which ended last July and believes a valuable market can be developed.
Emma Andrews-Moynan, ABPs livestock manager at its York abattoir, says the bulls killed out at 50-53% slightly less than some Continental breeds and lacked some shape and meat yield in the high-value hindquarters.
“Nobody should be fooled. Were not talking about prime cattle, but these Holstein bulls have the benefit of traceability and farm assurance which can be used to develop new markets, unlike some imported commodity beef,” she says.
Most Holstein beef is expected to end up in the catering and processing sector, competing against imports which last year totalled 193,000t carcass weight equivalent.
Costings by specialist finishers suggest a margin of about 70-75/head can be made before a beef subsidy claim.
Mike Bayston of Thornton House, Gilberdyke, East Yorks, finished a batch of 20 Holstein bull calves supplied by a local dairy farm and was genuinely impressed by their performance.
“They were fed a formulated beef ration using mainly home-grown feed and reached about 535kg liveweight at 10.5 months old, six weeks ahead of what we expected.”
Net margins have been about 180/beast including the 105 beef special premium subsidy and 17 slaughter premium. But Mrs Andrews-Moynan says margins for Holstein bulls fed on cheaper rations, such as potato waste, could be much lower.
“Finishers must treat Holsteins the same as better Continental-bred cattle or growth performance and carcass grades will be compromised.”