In the first instalment of thatsfarming.com beef round up of 2017, we’re going to take a look at the current beef specifications as the time will soon be upon us to get our winter finishers ready in top for market.
Specifications have been a contentious issue for quite a while now and certainly within farming circles this has been well known and discussed.
It seems that they are here to stay, so in this week’s article we will go through them and see exactly what is involved, and how can we comply with them.
The biggest issue by far in the beef specification to date is carcass weight, which is not really a surprise, considering that this is the factor the farmer is ultimately paid on for his animal.
Currently the factories are imposing cuts of 10c/kg on carcass weights over 420kg and 20c/kg on carcass weights over 440kg.
To adhere to and maximise your profit margins you must know the efficiency of the breed of animals on your farm, ranging from 50% up to 60% for breeds like Belgian Blues.
This is where having your own weighing scales to hand or a reliable contractor pays off.
At least one advantage of having a lower carcass weight is a quicker finishing period with costs having the potential to be reduced, as well as making the age limit more achievable.
The age limit for cattle slaughtered under the Quality Assurance Scheme (QSA) is 30 months. Any age above this is excluded. For steers or heifers the 30 month limit applies. In the case of bulls, individual factories will impose their own age limits as suits.
While there is no real need for a restriction on movements, factories are imposing a limit of 4 movements; the factory as a movement does not count in this.
There is also a requirement for cattle to be on a Quality Assured (QA) farm for 70 days prior to slaughter. This movement limit is not imposed by An Bord Bia.
Quality Payment Grid (QPS)
This table below (table 1) is the quality payment grid, which causes a lot of consternation among cattle finishers especially in the way the fat grades and conformation grades are reached.
In this week’s article, I will explain the table and how the price paid is reached.
For each grade/fat score a bonus or penalty applies.
Where in the table it says 0, that is paid at the base price, which invariably moves week by week.
Where there is a + symbol in the grid a bonus of that number will be added to the base price.
Where a – symbol in the grid, it will be deducted from the base price paid for the animal.
So for a 400kg carcass, we will assume that the animal qualifies for the 12c/kg Bord Bia (QA) bonus, the price paid would be paid as follows:
For a grade at U-3
12c/kg (QPS) + 12c/kg (QA) = 24c/kg
24c/kg + 3.75c/kg (today’s base price for a steer) = 3.99c/kg
3.99c/kg x 400kg = 1,596.
The QA bonus on this animal is €48.
The idea of the QPS is to reward the better quality cattle but with an abundance of dairy-bred cattle coming on stream, there are calls to review the QPS. Hopefully this will be in place in the near future.