Refinement needed but grid system offers hope
At first glance the new pricing grid looks a complicated affair as it contains 60 price boxes.
However, last year about 45pc of all the steers graded R and 40pc graded O, so 85pc of steers are covered by these two conformation grades. On fat, 55pc of steers were in fat class 3 and 26pc in fat class 4 (4L plus 4H). Therefore, the vast bulk of cattle are in the grades R3, R4, O3 and O4.
The new pricing system has come in for a lot of criticism since its introduction. Producers feel that there are more "minuses than pluses", that the penalties are higher than the bonuses and that it is too difficult to get the bonuses.
Before we dismiss the changes to the cattle pricing system, we should take account of the following:
The grid was developed from independent Teagasc carcass dissection trials, where meat yield was recorded and related to conformation and fatness grading.
Carcass value was calculated as the sum of the commercial value of individual meat cuts.
When a U3 carcass was compared to an O3 one of the same weight (360kg), the U3 carcass had 25kg more meat, 17kg less bone, and 7kg less fat.
The result was that the U3 carcass was worth 37c/kg extra, or 6c/kg on a 15-point conformation in grading scale.