A research update contained in Teagasc's latest beef advisory newsletter concludes that early maturing steers finished at 19 months were "lighter and fatter and had poorer carcass conformation, plus a lower response to concentrate supplementation than LM" (late maturing) stock.
hese early-maturing animals from Aberdeen Angus and Hereford are what we are now being told the market wants. It's all very well producing what the market wants but what is the point in doing so if it's going to be even worse that the current system which is, in most cases, doing no better than breaking even?
The update was drawn from a trial undertaken at Grange to determine growth and carcass characteristics of early and late-maturing steers (in this case Charolais and Limousin) produced in three contrasting systems, with slaughter prior to the second wintering period.
The underlying premise is that this could offer the possibility of reducing production costs by eliminating the final housing period.
All animals shared a common first (store) winter. After that they were allocated to either:
(1) 175 days pasture only;
(2) 100 days grazing followed by 75 days at pasture supplemented by 5kg concentrate;
(3) 100 days at pasture followed by 75 days indoors on ad-lib concentrates.
At slaughter, Group 1 had a carcass weight of 282kg, fat score 3- whereas LM weighed 300kg and had a fat score of 2=.
Supplementing early maturing stock (EM) at pasture increased carcass weight by 27kg (which worked out at 14kg concentrates per kg of carcass gain response) and fat score to 3=, while supplementing LM increased carcass weight by 38kg and (10:1 response) and the fat score to 3-.
Feeding ad lib concentrates in the last 75 days increased carcass weight by 49kg (17:1 response) and fat score to 3+/4- in the EM stock and by 63kg (13:1) and fat score to 3= in the LM cattle.
The study found that "in the final 75 days, the LM had a significantly higher weight gain than EM. LM had a significantly higher slaughter weight, kill-out proportion, carcass weight and lower carcass fat scorer than EM. Increasing concentrate levels in the final 75 days significantly increased all of these carcass traits as well".
So what, I hear you say?
Don't we know this?
Yes. This is why many Irish farmers moved from the traditional breeds to the Continentals in the first place.
Indeed, with the exception of a few small niche markets, the only places that these early maturing breeds are being farmed commercially are where hormones can be used.