Suckled calf breeders across the UK who have survived the BSE crisis of 1996, battled through two FMD epidemics and endured more than a decade of poor returns should resist the temptation to sell off cows without replacing them now that the beef sector is poised to move into much calmer water.
So says National Beef Association director, Kim Haywood, who is alarmed at the flood of good cows being sold for slaughter at a time when a drop of perhaps 17-18 per cent in domestic prime cattle slaughterings is expected to hit the market in almost exactly twelve months time.
“Now is not the time to reduce cow numbers or try to get by with a smaller herd. The amazingly high prices being paid for well fleshed cows should encourage breeders to clear out poor performers but no-one should be cashing these in without immediately buying in replacements,” she explained.
“It is sensible to improve future herd performance by getting rid of sub-fertile animals and bad doers but it would be a mistake to be tempted into herd reduction just because an uncommonly high number of heavy culls are being sold for more than £1,000.”
According to the NBA feed cost pressure is already easing with dried barley being quoted at £105 a tonne ex-farm compared with around £180 a tonne last season.
And the continued high level of dairy inseminations, which began early last autumn is certain to mean substantially less beef-cross dairy calves coming through for slaughter in England, Northern Ireland, and South West Scotland from September next year.”
“Fortune is about to smile on the suckled calf breeder and they should do their best to avoid being caught in the trap of not replacing culled animals after they have pocketed the cheque,” said Ms Haywood.
“Farmers who have been clever enough to keep hold of their cows through all the problems that have been heaped on them over the past twelve years should ask themselves if they are still being clever to finally get rid of them at almost exactly the time the suckled calf sector is about to enjoy a change in fortune.”
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