For prime beef eating quality, eliminate autumn–winter growth checks

UK - The eating quality of prime suckler beef can be spoiled by autumn–winter growth checks, according to George Brown, procurement officer for Highland Meats.
calendar icon 27 November 2006
clock icon 2 minute read

Addressing a workshop at Mr John Bannatyne’s Drumalbin Farm, Carmichael, he said that if an animal went through a period of stress, it tended to put down a layer of gristle through the muscle. “Alternatively, if cattle have done well throughout life, it comes through on the plate,” he said.

SAC beef specialist Gavin Hill added that avoiding growth checks was also crucial for profitable performance. He said the majority of male cattle in Scotland, for example, used to be sold at over 22 months to receive the second Beef Special Premium.

“To reach that age without being too fat, their growth rate was often held back with reduced feed levels,” he said. “Today, farmers know that to maximise profitability, cattle must have their potential realised, which has been achieved on the host farm where cattle are sold at around 16 months old.”

A major cause of autumn/winter growth checks tackled at the workshop was pneumonia. Housing specialist Jamie Robertson urged farmers to minimise moisture levels, thereby inhibiting disease organisms which otherwise thrive in damp conditions. He said a dry bed was important at all times, but particularly just after housing and when the weather produced high humidity and low air movement.

Mr Robertson added that two important maintenance jobs were to check roofs and drainpipes so that water was not allowed to flow into or through cattle buildings, and to check the air flow inside for sufficient and draught free ventilation to remove the moisture from animals’ breath.

Even in healthy housing, cattle can face a pneumonia threat from four pathogens in particular, according to Bryan Hamilton, livestock development adviser from the workshop sponsor, Pfizer Animal Health. “These are RSV, PI3, BVD and IBR,” he said. “These are viruses – against which antibiotics are ineffective – rather than bacteria, so vaccination in conjunction with healthy housing is essential to an effective preventive strategy. For ease of treatment, Rispoval 4 is a four-in-one vaccine against these threats, available from your veterinary surgeon.”


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