Returns outlook robust for beef producers

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Beef producers should aim to take advantage of lower cereal prices and robust carcase values by reducing finishing times this autumn, according to the latest advice from EBLEX.

With harvests across the northern hemisphere generally progressing well, competition between major producing countries is expected to result in lower prices for quality cereals, which is likely to filter through to the feed market. For the first time in 13 months, the November 2013 contract for wheat closed below £160 per tonne on August 5.

These low cereal prices are set to be coupled with tight supplies of finished cattle for the medium term. The decline in the breeding herd has reduced calf registrations this year and, even if herd rebuilding began now, a turnaround in high quality beef supply is unlikely before 2016.

Strong consumer confidence in British beef and strengthening support for native-bred cattle means the outlook for returns to beef producers is robust.

With cereal prices easing and carcase values at their current level, supplementation at grass offers a cost-effective option for finishers looking to get cattle away quickly this year. Extra concentrate feed in the autumn will increase growth rates and help to reduce overall finishing costs.

The objective of supplementation at grass is to avoid or reduce the time needed to house cattle for finishing. Having a clear idea of target slaughter weight and date will allow you to work out the growth rate needed and then whether supplements at grazing are required to achieve that.

Even where autumn grass is in good supply, the growth rate achievable is likely to be less than 1kg a day, whereas the target could be up to 1.5kg a day, and feeding cereals or other concentrates at 0.5kg per 100kg liveweight should give a positive return.