Margins less tasty than the beef
I attended two interesting events of cattle breeding last week. The first was a calf-to-beef trial based on Angus and Hereford cross calves born in the dairy herd. The second event saw the launch of the new ICBF Maternal Index for suckler herds.
The calf-to-beef trial is under way at the Teagasc facility in Johnstown Castle, Co Wexford and the first results have just come on stream.
The day represented one of the most rounded beef days ever held by Teagasc linking production, breeding, branding, processing and marketing.
We had the scientists reporting on the field measurement and research. We had the Angus and Hereford breed societies who got out and found premium branded markets for their cattle. We had ABP beef plant bosses who process and deliver the branded beef to its full potential. This gave the opportunity of feedback from end user to the producer.
The trial is sponsored by ABP, along with Irish Hereford Prime and Certified Irish Angus, and takes spring-born heifer and male calves and rears them on a primarily grass diet to finish over a range of ages, starting at 19 months for the heifers and ending at 23 months for the steers. The idea of staggering the slaughter age is to level out the seasonal beef supply pattern. Real markets demand product 52 weeks a year.
Over the years, Angus and Hereford breeders have felt excluded from Teagasc beef events. This was their day in the sun (notwithstanding the steady southeast drizzle) with eating quality to the fore. The tenderness and flavour of beef sandwich on offer to visitors would have one looking for more.
The first animals in the three-year trial have been slaughtered. So far, the performance targets for daily gain and carcaseweight and grade are being reached with the 19-month heifers averaging about 235kg carcases. The live animals on show were healthy and thriving. Herefords tended heavier than Angus. Maybe a few would struggle to get into the minimum O-grade carcase.
The disappointing aspect is the low-budgeted profitability. Based on an average carcase price (including bonuses) of €4/kg, the margin over direct costs ranged from €578 to €739/ha. Margin over total costs was only €144 to €165/ha.