Farm Ireland

Wednesday 17 January 2018

Dawn boss locks horns with Teagasc on carcass weight

Paul Nolan, Dawn Meats.
Paul Nolan, Dawn Meats.
Claire Mc Cormack

Claire Mc Cormack

The extra dairy-born animals coming into beef systems may have trouble finding a home with factories and markets, farmers were told at the Teagasc National Beef Conference.

Robert Prenderville of Teagasc Grange said 840,000 dairy-born calves could be available from May 1 to go into the beef system. He said, at the moment, dairy-born steers account for 55pc of national steer kill and most are 29-30 months of age at slaughter, with a slaughter weight of 325-370kg.

However, he added that the longer these animals are on a farm, the stocking capacity of the farm is greatly reduced, especially if it is late in the third season at pasture or during the animal's third winter.

"Ideally, animals that are 'stored' through the second winter should be slaughtered in May/June to avail of the stronger beef price at the time and also make pasture available to younger stock on the farm."

However, Paul Nolan of Dawn Meats said that finishing cattle at 230kg was "worrying" and that a "low 300kg for steers is getting into funny territory".

He also said that, as a processor, all Dawn Meats can do is reflect what the consumer will pay. But he warned it was incumbent of him to say that animals at these lighter weights will not make the first or second grade. In a statement to Farming Independent, Mr Nolan said: "Light cattle do not fit the specification for the premium food service and retail markets in the UK and EU, and are ultimately sold into commodity markets.

However, he added that "heavy cattle have become a niche item and, outside of some specialist jobs, are increasingly difficult to sell," he said.

Mr Prenderville told the conference that the optimum male dairy calf-to-beef systems were: 21-month steer system; 24-month 'traditional' steer systems; and, 26-28 month steer systems.

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Under these three systems, he said, the optimum carcass weight is 280kg; 320kg and 350kg respectively.

He also said finishing systems for early maturing heifers and late born, early-maturing steers range from 235kg to 320kg. Key to achieving the optimum carcass weights, he said, started from day one with calves. "Purchasing healthy dairy calves for beef production is essential to the profit generation of these systems."

He said getting dairy calves from multiple sources increases the risk of introducing disease.

Calves should be 85kg at weaning, he said, and consuming approximately 1kg of calf ration daily. The target daily weight gain, he advised, of a calf during their first season at grass is 0.8kg with a liveweight target at housing of 230kg.

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