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Is it worth fattening culls?

"Putting weight on dry OTM cows is unlikely to pay unless the cows are at grass," Mr Bertholdt told farmers at a recent Grassland Challenge seminar on the ending of the Over Thirty Months scheme (OTM).

Nik Bertholdt of Duchy College believed that if cows could be fattened while milking, the milk income could pay for the maintenance portion of the ration and could be more economic. He strongly advised farmers to do their own calculation of the profitability of fattening cull cows and if it is not profitable to fatten the cows to get them off the farm ASAP, don't worry about the price.

At a price of 88 pence per kilo of dead weight, with a killing out at 40%, each kilo of live-weight is worth 35p/kg. Yet it can cost 24-39 pence for pasture to put that kilo of live-weight on a dry cow. If the dead weight price is increased to 120p/kg and the killing out percentage is increased to 50%, each kilo of live-weight is then worth 60 pence.

Other scenarios that Mr Bertholdt discussed at the seminar included the profitability of putting weight on lactating cows, using silage and straights and where the weight gain lifts the whole carcass up a class/grade. Labour, manure handling, housing space and additional abattoir charges all need to be considered when deciding whether to fatten cull cows. Mr Bertholdts' final comments to the seminar were: "Have you really got the time and the space to run another group of fattening cows?"

Mr Bayliss of CQLP said that abattoirs would be looking for well conformed and fleshed suckler and dairy cows and all stock would have to be beef farm assured, but as yet there were few contracts being offered. He thought that in the short term returns were unlikely to be better than the OTMS scheme and advised farmers to watch for market developments as these could be rapid and volatile.

The re-opening of export markets for over thirty month beef would be critical for the price offered to farmers for their OTM cows. "Beef consumption in the UK has been increasing since 1986 and there is potential for OTM beef to replace both imported beef and some UK bred prime beef," said Duncan Sinclair, giving an over view of the market for EBLEX. He also pointed out that OTM beef could now be imported from the EU.

CQLP, EBLEX and Grassland Challenge are hosting a further evening seminar to discuss the opportunities following the changes to the OTMS on Tuesday 13 December 2005 at the Crossroads Lodge, Scorrier, Redruth. Peter Bayliss, general manager of Cornwall Quality Livestock Producers will discuss the market for older beef in light of the restructuring of the OTMS, including farm assurance requirements, demand and outlets. He will also discuss the buyer's view, outlining the requirements of the abattoir sector for cows. Nik Bertholdt, Duchy College, will consider the nutritional requirements and the economics of finishing cows to achieve market requirements. This will be followed by an open discussion with the panel. A buffet supper will be provided.

For further information please contact Paul Ward, project manager at Grassland Challenge on 01579 372315.

The Objective One Programme for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly has invested in the Grassland Challenge project through the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund (EAGGF).

Anyone considering a new horticulture, food and land based industries project is advised to speak with Maria Ford, at Government Office South West - 01752 635015 - before commencing development as there are now only limited funds available due to the successful uptake of funding by the agricultural sector in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.


Editor's notes:

Grassland Challenge is a partnership project led by Duchy College on behalf of the Cornish Grassland Societies in association with the Institute of Grassland & Environmental Research (IGER), aiming to improve the competitiveness of grassland and forage producers in Cornwall through technology transfer and dissemination of best practice. This project is part financed by Objective One European Agricultural Guidance & Guarantee Fund (EAGGF) & Defra.


Clare Morgan
Media Relations Manager
Objective One Partnership Office
Castle House
Pydar Street
Truro TR1 2UD
Mobile: 07973 813647
Telephone: 01872 223439

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