Brighter Outlook for Beef Cattle

UK - It may have been showery up on the slopes of Auchorachan farm, Glenlivet, yesterday but the farmers attending a Scottish Agricultural College (SAC) open day were seeing shafts of sunlight in their beef production.
calendar icon 28 August 2009
clock icon 2 minute read

Gavin Hill, a beef specialist with the SAC, said there was now more confidence in the industry. Recent rises in the price of breeding cattle was helping to turn the tide in the beef sector.

Statisticians and politicians may point to a 13 per cent cut in the number of breeding cows in Scotland over the past decade as an unarguable pointer to decline in the industry, but Hill said many of those cattle that had been taken out were "passengers" and the national herd was now "leaner and more efficient".

But there was no room for complacency, as producers had to try to further improve their enterprise margins by more intensive attention to some details of their production systems, says

The Durno family, who farm Auchorachan, produce store calves that are noted throughout the country as top-quality livestock, and next week, the pick of this year's calves will head to the Spectacular show in Aberdeen. Hill said this was a prime example of how to squeeze extra margins out of the market.

Michael Durno told the large crowd of fellow farmers who visited the 2,900-acre farm, which runs from 800ft up to 2,500ft of heather hill, that the farm policy was to sell all calves at 12 months.

While he was pleased with the recent rise in the prices he was receiving, the reality was that the Single Farm Payment (SFP) cheque was still "essential" to the overall profitability of the farm.

"Any erosion of the SFP would be serious to a beef farmer in our location," he said. "I would prefer to run my business on returns from the market place, but I do not see that happening."

Douglas Bell, senior business consultant at the SAC, agreed market price alone would not solve the financial concerns of producers and expressed a wish that politicians would back up their words of wanting to see more food produced with actions that would deliver these "public goods".

This was not a call to return to headage payments, he said, as that system did not produce the most efficient type of beef production, but "we must somehow see a way to incentivise the primary producer".

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