Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Saturday 23 September 2017

Finishers make shift to bull beef production

Martin Ryan

A dramatic switch from steer beef to bull beef among intensive finishers has been confirmed by the latest figures from the Department of Agriculture.

The intake of young bulls at the country's 25 export plants has drawn almost on par with the steer supply in a revolutionary change in the pattern of beef production on Irish farms.

Official figures for last month show that the number of young bulls supplied to beef factories nationally came within 1,600hd of the steer kill. The bull intake rocketed to 25,329hd compared with 26,955hd for steers.

A decade ago, young bulls accounted for less than 5pc of the steer supply but this has now totally changed.

If the expansion into bull beef production continues to increase at the scale experienced over the past two years, it is set to exceed the steer supply within the next four months.

The producers of bull beef are benefiting from the earlier maturing to slaughter weight, better grading at the factories and the exclusion, as yet, of young bulls from the quality payment system (QPS).

Figures compiled by the Department show a far superior grading result for young bulls compared to steers.

On conformation, almost 40pc of the young bulls grade U compared with 8pc of steers, while only 20pc fell into the O grade compared with 42pc of steers. These figures were based on a kill of almost one million head.

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The young bulls also fared better on fat levels. Fat score 2 was achieved by 46pc of young bulls, compared with 14pc for steers. However, less than 4pc of the young bulls were fat score 4, compared with more than 27pc of steers.

On price, the official returns show that young bulls trailed steers by up to 3c/kg. The latest national average for U3 young bulls was 423c/kg (including VAT) and 426c/kg for U3 steers.

In the past, young bulls were worth 8c/kg more than steers of a similar grade. At present, young bulls are not paid for under the QPS, which has increased the premium for quality grades over the traditional pricing system.

Producers of young bulls are, however, benefiting from the better liveweight gain and earlier slaughtering of animals.

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