An increasing number of cattle are meeting target weights and grade with 15% uplift in prime carcasses hitting specifications over the last three months, according to analysis of data from beef processor Pickstock Telford.
Gareth Parker, the company’s livestock procurement officer, puts this improvement down to an increasing number of farmers recognising the financial benefits of getting cattle away sooner and focusing on processors specifications.
“The old adage of ‘weight always pays’ has been a difficult concept to overcome but when you scrutinise the figures, the improvement in profit margins that can be achieved by finishing cattle in spec and in less days is clear,” he said.
Taking into consideration grid penalties for overweight cattle, the additional feed costs and time involved in an extended finishing period, he says there is an increase in net profit finishing cattle earlier, within specification.
There are also other financial benefits to factor in for the farmer, including greater capacity to increase the throughput of finishing cattle through a shed per year, plus bedding and labour savings.
“With ever increasing retail demand for consistency, when it comes to meat on the shelf, it’s crucial that we produce products that are the same weight and size, and fit within specific packaging guidelines,” said Mr Parker.
“This means the more animals we receive in specification, the better the price we can offer our farmers.”
Previously around 73% of the cattle Pickstock Telford processed were within specification, but this is now closer to 88%, with very few overweight cattle now being received.
Mr Parker says this improvement is a big step forward and beef producers and processors must continue to work closely together to improve consistency within the supply chain.
“Our procurement team are getting out on more farms than ever before and working much closer with farmers to help assess cattle,” he said.
“An increasing number of producers are now weighing regularly and monitoring growth rates, as well as considering the EUROP grid.”
While there are multiple factors at play which are affecting current market value, Mr Parker says getting cattle finished to market spec pays dividends for farmers when it comes to maximising profitability.
“At the end of the day, sustainable beef production is important for the whole supply chain and an integrated approach can support this, but consistency and accuracy at every stage is key.”