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Stackyard News Aug 06

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    Plan Ahead Realistically for Finishing Stock Buying

English suckled calf and store cattle finishers thinking about buying stock in the coming year should take the time to work out their break-even budgets advises the English Beef & Lamb Executive (EBLEX).
beef cattle

Good forward planning based on actual resource availability (including shed space), realistic budgets and careful cash flow assessments ahead of purchasing are vital. Especially so given the Single Payment Scheme (SPS) experiences of the past year, noticeably higher cereal prices, and home-grown feed supplies limited by the long, hot summer in many cases.

To help deliver a profit, stock should be purchased only after break-even budgeting to establish the extent to which the market returns necessary to cover their likely finishing costs can realistically be expected on the basis of experience and market forecasts.

Example Break-even Budget for 2006/07 Suckled Steer Finishing

Suckled calf cost  (300 kg @ 120p/kg)


Time on farm (to gain 300 kg @ 1.2 kg/day)

  250 days

Feed cost (250 days @ 80p/day)


Bedding, veterinary & other variable costs


Fixed costs @50p/day


Total costs


Carcase weight at sale (600 kg @ 55% killing out)

330 kg

Required sale price to cover costs            liveweight

124 p/kg
226 p/kg

The value of spreading the finishing period by buying different types and weights of stock should not be under-estimated either, both in maintaining income flow and in minimising the risk from short-term market fluctuations.

For the greatest value in purchased cattle finishing this season, EBLEX advises producers to:

• Buy stock suitable for specific markets as well as individual farm circumstances;
• Purchase animals from as few sources as possible for health and biosecurity;
• Group and house cattle according to age, sex and target slaughter date;
• Assess feed value for money in cost per unit of energy rather than per tonne;
• Minimise costs per unit of liveweight gain by achieving high growth rates;
• Plan to finish most continental-cross animals at two years of age or less;
• Weigh stock regularly to monitor performance against pre-set targets;
• Manage heifers, in particular, to grow frame before offering a finishing diet; and
• Always be aware of how sensitive your profitability is to cost and price fluctuations.

link The Stabiliser: the modern functional suckler cow
link Northwest Stabiliser Project - interest gaining momentum
link Beef from the Dairy Herd at Dairy Event 2006
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