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Create An Even Supply Of Cattle To Increase Profits

25 May 2010

UK - Breeders and feeders could work together to create a more even supply of prime cattle for slaughterers – and ease the seasonal overload which is dampening down prices just as the most expensively finished stock is moving onto the market.

The National Beef Association is alarmed at the heavy price falls being recorded across the UK and is worried about the long term impact this could have on beef production confidence.

It would like some breeders to re-consider the advantages of autumn calving and finishers to take on board the idea that staggered sales, or an effort to avoid over-selling in spring, could generate more income overall. Supply and demand generally rules the market and prime cattle prices are being pulled down because at the moment there are a lot of heavy cattle coming forward and depressing the market.

“Several new factors have combined to create a glut period for finished cattle when for decades May and June usually offered good prices for winter feeders that habitually needed the higher prices to cover expensive wintering costs,” explained NBA director, Kim Haywood.

Among the many influences which have, relatively quickly, generated a need to review production systems to stagger the delivery of prime cattle onto the market, is heavier spring calving in both the beef and dairy herds and a noticeable increase in the number of dairy bull beef coming onto the market during this period. Generally, more cattle are being finished in the house rather than putting them out to grass because of ease of handling.

“Across the UK the proportion of autumn-calving suckler cows is much lower than it was and this, combined with improved fertility, means a much greater number of suckled calves are born from February to May, “said Ms Haywood.

“On top of this there is huge pressure to slaughter the higher proportion of suckler bred bulls on the ground within a strict 16 month age limit - and this too is pushing more prime stock onto the spring market and increasing the oversupply.”

Similar developments in the dairy herd, which now accounts for 55 per cent of the UK’s beef production, are raising the height of the spring glut too.

“More herds calve most heavily in spring and significantly more Holstein bull calves are being reared entirely, on relatively cheap rations, instead of being exported to the Continent for veal finishing or being shot at birth,” said Ms Haywood.

“Processors are demanding that these should be offered at around 12 months old, preferably much less than 14 months, so more finished stock is being jammed into a very narrow sales period each spring.”

“If spring price disappointments are to be avoided in later years more effort is going to have to be made, right across the breeding and feeding spectrum, to generate a more even supply of finished cattle with slightly more on offer October-December and less available over April-June,” Ms Haywood added.

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