Seeing my poorer carcasses shows advantage of the QPS
'It's a pity that the fine day does any harm." I remember hearing these words as a child and wondering what exactly they meant. After this year's cold, dry spring and very dry early summer, I think I'm beginning to understand their true meaning at last.
This time last year I had sold four loads of cattle. To date, I have only disposed of one and a half loads. Worse still, they have not killed-out well. The percentage of carcasses grading P is up and the fat score has dropped substantially.
When I was picking them out for the factory, I felt that they looked fine and I was confident of a reasonable kill. However, the returns were, to say the least, disappointing. So much so, that I asked to see them hanging in the chill. When I got to see them they were hanging beside a group of R-grade cattle and I must honestly say I could not disagree with the grading.
There was a huge difference between my Friesians and the R-grade cattle. If I ever needed convincing of the benefits and indeed the necessity of the quality payment system (QPS) -- or grid as it is better known -- then this was it.
Farmers who produce higher-yielding carcasses are definitely entitled to be paid more for the extra meat.
I hadn't realised it but it has been well over 10 years since I last saw carcasses hanging in a cold store. The one thing that struck me about the R-grade cattle is that I firmly believe that they would have graded U a decade ago. Have the goalposts been moved or is it simply down to the increased use of Holstein in the dairy herd? It is very difficult to say. What I saw would lead me to believe that there has been a change in grading. My old kill sheets from that time showed very few P-grade Friesians, while R-grade Friesians were quite common.
This is certainly not the case now.
At the moment the price of store cattle appears to have increased by around €100/hd on last year. This is something I'm sure store producers are relieved about, but it does put a large question mark over the profitability of fattening cattle in the coming year. But was it ever any other way? I learned a long time ago that uncertainty and tight margins are the norm in beef production.